SALEM – Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber on Tuesday imposed a moratorium on the death penalty for the remainder of his term, saying he’s morally opposed to capital punishment and has long regretted allowing two men to be executed in the 1990s.
Kitzhaber’s decision gives a temporary reprieve to a twice-convicted murderer who was scheduled to die by lethal injection in two weeks, along with 36 others on death row. It makes Oregon the fifth state to halt executions since 2007.
His voice shaking, the Democratic governor said he has repeatedly questioned and revisited his decisions to allow convicted murderers Douglas Wright and Harry Moore to be executed in 1996 and 1997.
“I do not believe those executions made us safer. Certainly I don’t believe they made us nobler as a society,” Kitzhaber said. “And I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong.”
Death penalty proponents criticized the decision, saying the governor is usurping the will of voters who have supported capital punishment.
Kitzhaber is a former emergency room doctor who still retains an active physician license with the Oregon Medical Board, and his opposition to the death penalty has been well-known. In a news conference explaining his decision, he cited his oath as a physician to “do no harm.” Kitzhaber was elected last year to an unprecedented third term as governor after eight years away from public office.