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Oregon killer’s death sentence in court again

SALEM – Convicted murderer Gary Haugen’s request to be executed will be heard by the state Supreme Court this week.

The seven justices will hear oral arguments Thursday on whether the twice-convicted murderer can legally reject an unconditional reprieve issued by Gov. John Kitzhaber in 2011. Kitzhaber’s action blocked the execution two weeks before it was scheduled to take place.

Haugen won the first round in Marion County Circuit Court last August, when visiting Judge Timothy Alexander, now deceased, ruled that Haugen could refuse the reprieve.

The Supreme Court accepted Kitzhaber’s appeal directly, the Statesman Journal reported Sunday.

Kitzhaber argues Haugen has no legal right to reject a reprieve because of the Oregon Constitution, the historical circumstances of clemency and previous court decisions about the governor’s clemency powers, according to written arguments filed with the court.

The Department of Justice argues that the governor’s constitutional power of clemency is clear. Haugen’s lawyers say Kitzhaber’s reprieve deprives him of federal constitutional rights such as a ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

The hearing will be at the University of Oregon, where the justices meet as part of their annual circuit of the state’s three law schools.

The justices will not announce a decision immediately. The justices usually take six to nine months to issue a decision, but face no deadline.

Haugen was sentenced to death in 2007 for aggravated murder, the only crime for which Oregon’s death penalty applies, in connection with the killing of another inmate at the Oregon State Penitentiary. He turns 51 this month.