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Posted by on Nov 22, 2011 in Breaking News, Guest Contributor, Law, Politics | 2 comments

Breaking: Oregon Governor Orders Death Penalty Moratorium

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has just concluded a press conference* announcing that he was putting the execution of  double-murderer Gary Haugen on hold, and a moratorium on all executions through the remainder of his term.

[* radio story .mp3 is here. Press conference link as soon as I get it. Got it: Video link is here.]

Kitzhaber (the most neutral photo I could
find. He’s either being shot as angel or ogre otherwise)

He spoke of his angst over a practice that he had been against personally and professionally. And of two Oregon prisoners executed during his first term, which he has regretted ever since. A very somber press conference, with the exception of a reporter who tried to change the subject to something entirely unrelated. Kitzhaber suggested that the issue was not quite of the same import as the death penalty stay. From the Northwest News Network story:

In his announcement, the Democrat called Oregon’s death penalty system “broken.” He says it, “fails to meet the basic standards of justice.”

Hagen was scheduled to die of lethal injection in two weeks.

Updates as more information becomes available.

Good day for it: the 48th Anniversary of the assassination of President John  Fitzgerald Kennedy.

UPDATE #1 — 2:56 PM PST: New York Times “pre-coverage” of the “event.” Isn’t there something weird that so much of our news is WILL happen, rather than HAS happened? Look at the URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/23/us/oregon-executions-to-be-blocked-by-gov-kitzhaber.html

Oregon, which uses lethal injection, has executed just two people since its voters approved the death penalty in 1984, and both of those inmates waived certain rights to appeal, making them so-called volunteers. The state, which has 37 inmates on death row, last executed someone in 1997. It has been one of seven states that the Death Penalty Information Center had considered to have an effective moratorium on the death penalty. But Oregon’s status appeared likely to change after Gary Haugen, a twice-convicted murderer, waived several appeals and asked to be executed.

UPDATE #2 3:18 PM PST: The Associated Press gives some background and proves that English has, alas, finally expired in Oregon after years of wasting illness. I submit this headline to the Coroner’s Inquest:

Ore. Supreme Court declines to block execution

declines to block execution” is a term only used by nineteenth century romantic novelists and twenty-first century Customer Service call centers in India. And, perhaps by Hong Kong prostitutes. But it is not English. It is pidgin in all cases, except the first, which is spelt “pigeon.”

Here’s the background on the timing, driven less by P.R. than by historical necessity:

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Supreme Court on Monday said it will not block the state’s first execution in 14 years, removing the last legal barrier to twice-convicted murderer Gary Haugen’s request to waive his appeals. A Marion County judge has ordered that Haugen be executed by lethal injection on Dec. 6….

The ruling was 4-3

UPDATE #3 3:28 PM PST:

If the reader has obtained the impression that I am implying this is a serious and profound subject being covered (apparently) by the Keystone (Press) Co(r)ps(e), I reject the charge. I make it explicit. No implication here.

UPDATE #4 4:19 PM: Oregonian coverage is here.

UPDATE #5 10:41 PM: Rachel Maddow did a nice piece on it on MSNBC, and posted Kitzhaber’s complete statement on her blog.

Courage.

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A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.