"...compromised and inequitable..."
November 22, 2011 5:15 PM   Subscribe

Governor John Kitzhaber halts all executions in Oregon

With the execution of Gary Haugen planned for December 6th, Kitzhaber has announced that he will not allow the death penalty to be used on his watch, calling it a "compromised and inequitable system". Two executions have been carried out in Oregon in the last 49 years — both during Kitzhaber's first term as governor. A history of capital punishment in Oregon. Full statement from Governor Kitzhaber (pdf).
posted by OverlappingElvis (49 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
The drawn-out process also is difficult for family members of the people Haugen killed, said Ard Pratt, the ex-husband of Mary Archer. Haugen raped and beat Archer in her Northeast Portland home in 1981. Archer was the mother of Haugen's former girlfriend.

Haugen also killed David Polin, an inmate at the Oregon State Penitentiary, in 2003, the conviction that sent him and his accomplice to death row.

"I just wish they would get it over with," Pratt said, describing the painful disruption as the families have prepared for an execution only to have the process stopped and restarted.

posted by bearwife at 5:21 PM on November 22, 2011


Good to hear. I only hope this is the first step to putting an end to all future executions in Oregon.
posted by hepta at 5:25 PM on November 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


The dream of the 90s is alive!
posted by gerryblog at 5:36 PM on November 22, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'm not a fan of the death penalty, but this particular inmate's plea to get executed ASAP has been all over the news in Oregon for a while now.
I feel sorry for this guy and how his life has turned out, but last I heard he has been ruled mentally fit, and prolonging his time waiting almost seems worse than other parts of his punishment. My vote would be to let the guy get it over with, however much the death penalty is applied poorly and unjustly.
posted by efalk at 5:44 PM on November 22, 2011


I disagree. I think the best punishment is to slowly rot away the rest of your life while you think about what you did. Bonus: If you are innocent after all, you haven't been irreversibly murdered by the state.
posted by Renoroc at 5:47 PM on November 22, 2011 [18 favorites]


As I've said before: the death penalty is far too cruel to the innocent (of which there are many) and far too merciful to the guilty.
posted by notsnot at 5:53 PM on November 22, 2011 [22 favorites]


Any punishment is misguided, because there is no reason to modify a dead man's behavior, and even less certainty about who deserves it. We even put people to death for killing others for revenge, which is kind of weird. But, assuming the demand for capital punishment will always exist, it should be a randomized selection process from only confessed killers (in order to be fair AND appeal to various notions of justice). This process, though, would fail to entice any confessions unless a deal would include a lower probability of being selected than those who never confessed. The idea is to make the outcomes the same percentage if they confessed, or if they went to trial and failed (thus not discouraging a trial, but not encouraging a stalled confession).
posted by Brian B. at 5:57 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


it should be a randomized selection process from only confessed killers

And the execution method should be being chased through an apocalyptic ruin by pro wrestlers who use futuristic weapons to hunt you down, with an empty promise of reprieve if you survive long enough.
posted by localroger at 6:03 PM on November 22, 2011 [32 favorites]


Can someone explain the bit in the first link about Oregon only executing volunteers? Because that seems really twisted, somehow. (And I'm someone who refuses to criticise someone else for committing suicide.)
posted by hoyland at 6:06 PM on November 22, 2011


The fact that you call in punishment tells me you're not ready.
posted by neuromodulator at 6:07 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, I figured it out (by reading the other links--oops). It's poor wording. They're calling people who abandon appeals 'volunteers'.
posted by hoyland at 6:08 PM on November 22, 2011


I can not understand why otherwise conservative people, who supposedly want to limit the power of the state, are so willing to give it the ultimate power.
posted by mollweide at 6:35 PM on November 22, 2011 [24 favorites]


I get the impression they'd prefer to just shoot criminals themselves, but know how bad that would look.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:37 PM on November 22, 2011


A society can be measured by how they treat their prisoners.
posted by captainsohler at 6:50 PM on November 22, 2011


I can not understand why otherwise conservative people, who supposedly want to limit the power of the state, are so willing to give it the ultimate power.

I used to be a conservative who grappled with this. I also used to wonder from where this power was delegated, as per the tenth amendment. I'm not a conservative anymore.

Truth of the matter is "the system" is whatever assembles the greatest force behind it. Sometimes guns, sometimes silver tongues, sometimes sheer mass opinion.

That said, Kitzhaber picked an odd place to get all "moral". Haugen isn't some poor minority railroaded into a sham trial and convicted by twelve good ol' boys. He's a murdering savage that should be decently put down. Hell, he wants it. Give it to him.

A society can be measured by how they treat their prisoners.

That bumper sticker will get you a lot of favorites but doesn't have to go far to take its implications logically to an absurd consequence.
posted by codswallop at 6:56 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


mollweide: I can not understand why otherwise conservative people, who supposedly want to limit the power of the state, are so willing to give it the ultimate power.

Authoritarianism runs pretty deeply in the US. Might makes right and all that.
posted by dr_dank at 7:13 PM on November 22, 2011


The governor said, as a physician, he took an oath to "do no harm." I think that we should all take that oath.
posted by arveale at 7:17 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


That said, Kitzhaber picked an odd place to get all "moral".

Yes, I also thought that this was an unfortunate hill to die on.

Haugen isn't some poor minority railroaded into a sham trial and convicted by twelve good ol' boys.

Irrelevant. Kitzhaber's point is not that it's wrong to kill this guy. It's that it's wrong for kill anyone. If killing is wrong, then it's wrong for the state to kill anybody, even this piece of crap.

I, personally, don't have a problem with executing the guilty. Except for the fact the legal systems has an unacceptably high failure rate - innocent people are convicted far too frequently. Given that executions are irreversible, the prospect of executing any innocent people is unacceptable to me.

Plus, given the costs of special incarceration requirements, appeals...etc., executing someone far exceeds the costs of life imprisonment.

Also, the scads of evidence to show that the dealt penalty is not a deterrent. So, what's the point?

Ultimately, even when you disregard the moral issue, it's better for the society not to execute people.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:40 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


!
posted by Navelgazer at 7:47 PM on November 22, 2011


Honestly I was surprised Oregon even had the death penalty. I thought the state was pretty liberal, but then again I've never been there and I'm basing myself on the first season of portlandia.

Great move by the Gov, anyway. Hopefully others will follow. The US cant abolish the death penalty soon enough. It's an expensive, cruel process that serves no purpose.
posted by falameufilho at 8:03 PM on November 22, 2011


I, personally, don't have a problem with executing the guilty. Except for the fact the legal systems has an unacceptably high failure rate - innocent people are convicted far too frequently. Given that executions are irreversible, the prospect of executing any innocent people is unacceptable to me.

Plus, given the costs of special incarceration requirements, appeals...etc., executing someone far exceeds the costs of life imprisonment.

Also, the scads of evidence to show that the dealt penalty is not a deterrent. So, what's the point?

Ultimately, even when you disregard the moral issue, it's better for the society not to execute people.

His thoughts were red thoughts, are... are you me?
posted by IAmBroom at 8:08 PM on November 22, 2011


Let's hope this is soon to be one more state to add to the pile that can someday reflect the "evolving standards of decency" that will get the death penalty finally ruled unconstitutional.

Also, maybe it's just skepticism and too much knowledge of the ridiculous procedurally and substantive barriers in the way of meaningful appeals, but I have a hard time with the that someone who would "abandon appeals" is somehow "volunteering" to be put to death.
posted by likeatoaster at 8:08 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


What's really nice about this is that Kitzhaber did this because he felt it was the right thing to do, he wasn't paid, he isn't trying to appeal to voters, he made a decision based upon his own morals and is sticking to it.

Whether you agree with his decision or not, it is refreshing.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 8:27 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Huh. I'm adamantly against the death penalty, for the reasons given by His thoughts were red thoughts... but I also feel that people have a right to end their own life (subject to safeguards, like a waiting period or something like that). I think anybody--including prisoners--should be able to make that choice. At that point it's completely different the death penalty, in my mind: It's not punishment, there aren't costly appeals, and you're helping someone die instead of killing them. So... yeah, the particulars here are a bit strange. But overall, good on Governor Kitzhaber, this is a step in the right direction.
posted by kprincehouse at 8:34 PM on November 22, 2011


Yeah, if this horrible person "just wants to die" isn't it more punishment not to kill him and let him suffer?
posted by delmoi at 8:34 PM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


His thoughts were red thoughts, are... are you me?

Well, we both have beards... so I'm going to say 'yes'.

Nice beard, me!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:50 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


...he made a decision based upon his own morals and is sticking to it.

Whether you agree with his decision or not, it is refreshing.


Actually, what I find refreshing is that it wasn't just his personal morals, but that also he analysed the issue, drew sound conclusions, and made a decision based on logic and rationality.

Not just "JEBUS SAY KILLING IS BAD", but a nuanced, layered consideration of the facts and issues.

And he did it transparently. No hiding, no obfuscation, no pandering to ignorant shouting wingnuts.

In short, he led. A man to be admired.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:00 PM on November 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


The strangest part in all this is the people opposing death penalty on the grounds of it not being gruesome or painful enough.
posted by klue at 9:12 PM on November 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I also wanted to remark on the novelty of a politician taking a principled stance. An event almost unheard-of in recent years.
posted by kavasa at 9:30 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bout damn time.
posted by midmarch snowman at 9:30 PM on November 22, 2011



From the "History" link (which is a State website)
Executions, although an infrequent, minor part of corrections in Oregon, pique the public's interest and hopefully will always remain a source of controversy, passion and discourse.

Hopefully it will go away for the 4th time, and never again become a source of controversy, passion or discourse, actually.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:44 PM on November 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Please,” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation, “don’t kill me.”

(Governor George W. Bush reacts to Carla Faye Tucker's plea for mercy.)
posted by Danf at 9:48 PM on November 22, 2011


I did not do so because the policy of this state on capital punishment is not mine alone to decide.

Well, no, it's not yours to decide, period.

It is a matter for all Oregonians to decide.

They have. Repeatedly.
posted by madajb at 10:00 PM on November 22, 2011


klue The strangest part in all this is the people opposing death penalty on the grounds of it not being gruesome or painful enough.

Yes. It strikes me as a bizarre and horrible example of where American society is at, morally, at this point in time.

Renoroc the best punishment is to slowly rot away the rest of your life while you think about what you did. Bonus: If you are innocent after all, you haven't been irreversibly murdered by the state.
Just ... rotted away the rest of your life. Great. (This nasty little sentiment had garnered 13 favorites at time of posting.)

notsnot As I've said before: the death penalty is far too cruel to the innocent (of which there are many) and far too merciful to the guilty.
This one had 14 favorites at time of posting.

I'm not against the death penalty as such, nor do I consider that it should only be applied to certain crimes. (It strikes me as an act of mercy, for some, and perhaps Gary Haugen is in that category.) On the other hand I am very much against torture, and accordingly am against prison, and very much against the sentiments expressed by notsnot and Renoroc. However natural it may be to sadistically delight in--and figuratively masturbate over--the ever-greater and more exquisite suffering of The Bad People, it is not moral. It makes you just as bad as them or worse, the difference mainly being your relative cowardice: there is a superficial social approval given for you to choose them as your victims. It is safe for you, because you stand among so many like you, to want so much to hurt them.

Dexter is an excellent TV show, however the moral status of what he does is in no doubt. He harms wrongdoers because he so much wants to hurt people, any people, and it is wrongdoers that he will suffer least from hurting. The same is true of those who call for ever-harsher cruelty to prisoners.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 10:13 PM on November 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


My vote would be to let the guy get it over with, however much the death penalty is applied poorly and unjustly.

My vote is to just commute the guy's sentence to life. If the state's wrong, he (ahem...ideally) will get a Damien Echols-style release. If the state's right (i.e. the dude's guilty) he'll get plenty of punishment & chance to redeem himself. (i.e. Robert Stroud)
posted by ShutterBun at 11:41 PM on November 22, 2011


Another article about the death penalty, another tirade of bizarre comments about how it should involve torture/is too merciful because convicted criminals should be made to suffer for decades. And as always, nobody is considering what happens to the victims of a justice system which has proven its own ineptitude in sorting out the innocent from the guilty time and time again.

There is no way to take back executing an innocent person. There would also be no way to take back torturing or otherwise psychologically destroying an innocent person. There is already no way to take back imprisoning an innocent person for several decades. The person might still be alive, but their life has been essentially destroyed by a mistake of the state. This happens and is happening right now...and yet a disturbing number of people here want to grant the American government power to do even greater harm to the innocent people it convicts.
posted by anaximander at 1:57 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


He is also to be commended for not only analyzing the issue and recognizing the flawed system for what it is, but also standing against popular opinion. Acording to a colleague who worked on an AG race here in Oregon a majority of people support the death penalty. A national Gallup poll shows waning support but still an overwhelming majority of 61% for 35% against.

Good on him. He won the 2010 election by the slimmest of margins. This was a brave thing to do. Even if he doesn't seek a fourth term I hope this changes the conversation within the party and influences future Democratic candidates (I am looking at you, Ted Wheeler!).
posted by munchingzombie at 2:04 AM on November 23, 2011


aeschenkarnos: "As I've said before: the death penalty is far too cruel to the innocent (of which there are many) and far too merciful to the guilty.
This one had 14 favorites at time of posting.
"

Perhaps you don't get my meaning. I don't mean that the penalty should be more gruesome or ghastly. Rather, those on death row are awarded something special: they get to know, in advance, when they're gonna die. The rest of us will either die in surprises, or via wasting away - so we spend all our energy fighting it.

Knowing the day and hour is a great mercy.
posted by notsnot at 4:10 AM on November 23, 2011


Knowing the day and hour is a great mercy.

This is a crock of shit. Enlightenment might work for you, bud, but I can think of few things more viscerally terrifying and traumatic than counting down the breaths you have left before someone kills you. It's not mercy, it's torture.
posted by lydhre at 5:12 AM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]


Reserve the death penalty only to cases where there is absolutely zero doubt as to the persons guilt.

In those cases carry out the execution quickly 30-90 days or so. Maybe longer, but definitely nothing like 25+ years being on death row.

no innocent person gets killed and we don't spend millions of dollars housing someone who uses the system to postpone their sentence for decades
posted by 2manyusernames at 5:12 AM on November 23, 2011


People might disagree on whether the death penalty is moral, or an effective deterrent, or okay for the state to use. For a variety of reasons including the ones above, I disagree completely with the use of the death penalty. I do not think it is moral, I don't think it's a deterrent, and I don't think it's okay for the state to use because it is a fallible system.

But whether you agree with the use of the death penalty or not, I don't think anyone aware of the facts of death penalty judgments can agree that it is used equitably. And for that reason alone, it should be ended. Any system in which the punishments are unequal due factors other than the crime is an unjust system.
posted by X-Himy at 5:20 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Reserve the death penalty only to cases where there is absolutely zero doubt as to the persons guilt.

Do you believe these cases exist?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:24 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think the best punishment is to slowly rot away the rest of your life while you think about what you did.

I never really got why anyone would try to use the whole "life in prison is worth than death" line as an argument against capital punishment. It seems like you'd be happy with giving life to the worst and death to lesser criminals if that was true, but of course you're not (and shouldn't be.) I guess not everyone would think to point that out.

I can not understand why otherwise conservative people, who supposedly want to limit the power of the state, are so willing to give it the ultimate power.

They feel obligated to defend it because the only alternative appears to be letting criminals do what they want, and like anybody they're not well read so don't know about life outside the Republican/Democrat reduction. Same as the War on Drugs and invading other countries. When they're shown a third way, they usually opt for it.
posted by michaelh at 7:50 AM on November 23, 2011


It occurred to me this morning that Kitzhaber just pulled a "Chip Kelly."

Meaning, while I have no idea how the head football coach of the Ducks feels about this issue, he is liable, and likely to go big in unexpected ways at random moments, usually with a measure of success.

I wish Kitzhaber well on this one, and I also remember how close the Governor's election was, and cannot imagine Chris Dudley doing anything like this.
posted by Danf at 7:54 AM on November 23, 2011


One of the local OPB radio programs, Think Out Loud, had a discussion about this just this morning. I don't believe that this episode is up to listen to quite yet but it will be shortly, if you're interested.
posted by rainperimeter at 10:35 AM on November 23, 2011


It is a matter for all Oregonians to decide.

They have. Repeatedly.


Sure, but the last vote on this was in 1984. There are a whole lot of people in Oregon who have never been asked how they feel about capital punishment.
posted by rainperimeter at 10:43 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think justice should be left up to the capricious whims of whoever happens of be the majority at the time.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:46 AM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


aeschenkarnos writes "(This nasty little sentiment had garnered 13 favorites at time of posting.)"

aeschenkarnos writes "This one had 14 favorites at time of posting."

Turning off the display of favourites in your account settings will greatly enhance your calm. All the rage inducing score keeping and back benching just fades away.
posted by Mitheral at 4:29 PM on November 23, 2011


And as always, nobody is considering what happens to the victims of a justice system which has proven its own ineptitude in sorting out the innocent from the guilty time and time again.

Nobody, anaximander, except for all those who have previously commented on that very point in this thread: Renoroc (and the 18 Mefites who marked his comment with favorites), His thoughts were red thoughts, myself, kprincehouse, and ShutterBun.

Did you actually read the thread before accusing us?
posted by IAmBroom at 10:29 AM on November 24, 2011


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