Death Row Inmate Sues to be Executed
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Oregonian Gary Haugen is having trouble making up his mind whether he wants to live or die. The 49-year-old prisoner has been on death row since 2007 for fatally beating and stabbing fellow inmate David Polin in 2003, while Haugen was serving a life sentence without parole for beating his ex-girlfriend’s mother to death in 1981. Both crimes were exceptionally violent: Polin’s skull was crushed and he had been stabbed 84 times.
Originally scheduled to die August 16, 2011, Haugen waived his appeals to protest the “arbitrary and vindictive nature of the death penalty,” but the Oregon Supreme Court cancelled his execution because Haugen’s attorneys argued that he was mentally incompetent to waive his appeals. After a hearing found him competent, he was scheduled to die December 6, when Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced he was granting Haugen a reprieve from execution, and that he would not allow any executions to proceed, at least until the state legislature has a chance to consider and enact reforms. Kitzhaber called Oregon’s death penalty system “compromised and inequitable.”
Haugen initially thought Kitzhaber’s action “was a smash, [that] something good was done,” and his attorneys filed papers accepting the Governor’s reprieve. Within a short time, however, Haugen changed his mind, calling the Kitzhaber “a paper cowboy” who “couldn’t pull the trigger.” He was particularly critical of Kitzhaber’s decision to submit possible reforms to the 2013 State Legislature, rather than in 2012; that decision likely flowed from the fact that the legislature meets for only 35 days in even numbered years but for 160 days in odd years.
Now Haugen wants the courts to force Kitzhaber to allow his execution. In a lawsuit filed May 24, Haugen’s new attorneys argue that a pardon or reprieve must be accepted by the inmate to be valid, and that Haugen’s prior attorneys did not have his consent to file papers welcoming the reprieve. They also argue that Governor Kitzhaber exceeded his constitutional authority in granting the reprieve, because a reprieve is ordinarily time-limited, rather than open-ended.
The lawsuit may face rough going, however, as it relies on two very old cases (from 1918 and 1926) for its “acceptance” argument, and cites only a 43-year-old legal dictionary for the proposition that the Governor can issue only time-limited reprieves. Neither the Oregon Constitution nor relevant statutes place any such restrictions on the Governor’s power.
To Learn More:
Death Row Inmate Demands Execution (by Dee Moore, Courthouse News Service)
Gov. Kitzhaber’s Reprieve of inmate Gary Haugen’s Execution was Legally Valid, DOJ Argues (by Helen Jung, The Oregonian)
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