PORTLAND – Gov. John Kitzhaber said Friday that he won’t OK the execution of death-row inmate Gary Haugen, even if the Oregon Supreme Court rules that he can’t force the inmate to accept a reprieve.
Haugen, a two-time murderer, wants to be executed, but the governor has blocked it on moral grounds. The high court heard arguments in the standoff Thursday and was expected to issue a ruling by year’s end.
Kitzhaber briefly discussed the case with Oregon Public Broadcasting before the City Club of Portland, saying he was confident the court will determine the state constitution gives him the authority to issue a reprieve even if Haugen doesn’t want it.
Kitzhaber said that with the possibility of a court defeat, he would not commute the sentence but, “I will not execute him, either.”
He said governors generally get a call from the warden shortly before executions, asking whether there is a reason an execution should not take place. “If they call me, I will say, ‘Yes, there is a reason this execution should not be carried out.’ ”
It was unclear what the warden would do next. In a follow-up interview, Kitzhaber spokesman Tim Raphael said he would not speculate.
Haugen’s attorney, Harrison Latto, said in a phone interview that Kitzhaber would be violating his oath of office if he took such a stand after a court defeat.
“And the superintendent (of the Oregon State Penitentiary) would be risking being held in contempt of court,” he added. “Because I’m assuming at that point, there would be a death warrant directing the superintendent to carry out the execution.”