- Florida beach-goers told to beware flesh-eating bacteria in water
- Lundergan Grimes uses ‘war on women’ strategy to attack McConnell
- Rep. Jeff Miller: ‘Ain’t no leash for VA’
- Al Qaeda nets $125M from ransom payoffs from Europe since 2008
- Ohio Gov. John Kasich cruising to re-election: survey
- Landslide hits Indian village; 150 may be trapped
- Albania bank loses $7M in theft; police arrest 2
- Gov. Mike Pence irked as Obama sends illegals to Indiana on sly
- Israel, White House say Obama phone call to demand cease-fire was fake
- Nancy Pelosi: Deporting kids un-Christian, sends them ‘into a burning building’
In Oregon, a new debate on halting executions
Residents ask: Did governor exceed his powers?
Question of the Day
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber says he intended to start a debate about the death penalty when he announced at an emotional news conference last week that he would block all executions for the remainder of his term.
In doing so, he also started a debate about the scope of the governor’s power.
Critics say the governor has violated his oath of office by essentially declaring a moratorium on the death penalty, which is part of the state constitution. The surprise announcement came during a news conference at which he said that he had halted the Dec. 6 execution of double-murderer Gary Haugen.
Mr. Kitzhaber, a Democrat who allowed executions to take place in 1996 and 1997, said his conscience would no longer let him sit by while another inmate died at the hands of the state.
“I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong,” said Mr. Kitzhaber, saying the moratorium was one of the “most agonizing and difficult decisions” of his career.
Others took umbrage at what they described as his decision to allow his personal feelings to override his duty to uphold the state constitution.
Kathy Pratt, the daughter of Mary Archer, who was raped and fatally beaten by Haugen in 1981, told KGW-TV in Portland on Wednesday that the governor’s decision was a “miscarriage of justice.”
“It just made no sense to me whatsoever. There just doesn’t seem to be any legal or logical reason other than his personal opinion, which he feels is more important than anybody and anything else,” Mrs. Pratt said.
The Oregon District Attorneys Association adopted a statement Wednesday opposing the governor’s decision, pointing out that state and federal courts have ruled the state’s capital punishment laws constitutional.
“The state’s District Attorneys are responsible for ensuring that we are in fact a society that observes the rule of law. For that reason, many of us are profoundly disturbed by Governor John Kitzhaber’s abrupt pronouncement that no jury’s verdict of death will be carried out during his term,” said the statement, drawn up by Clatsop County District Attorney Joshua Marquis.
James Huffman, dean emeritus at Lewis and Clark School of Law, wrote in a Nov. 29 opinion piece in the Oregonian newspaper that while the state constitution allows the governor to grant reprieves on a case-by-case basis, it doesn’t allow him to issue a blanket stay.
“Nowhere does the state constitution give the governor authority to suspend the constitution and laws of the state by declaring an effective moratorium on executions,” Mr. Huffman said.
If Mr. Kitzhaber is indeed violating the state constitution by refusing to enforce the death penalty, however, he’s not the first governor to do so, according to Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center.
Illinois Gov. George Ryan, a Republican, declared a similar moratorium in 2000, which he topped off by commuting to life the sentences of all 167 inmates on Death Row at the end of his term, Mr. Dieter said. Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening halted all executions in 2002 while the state was studying the death penalty.
The difference in the Maryland case is that Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, “didn’t make it about his own personal opinion - he just did it while the study was under way,” Mr. Dieter said.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Valerie Richardson covers politics and the West from Denver. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- EPA hears testimony on proposed carbon emissions rules
- Westerners call for oversight to combat federal land managers
- Protesters rally in Colorado to support Israel's fight with Hamas
- Plagiarism scandal threatens Senate campaign of Montana Democrat John Walsh
- Conservative groups decry Democrats' 'war on women' tactic
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
- Boehner rules out impeachment: 'Scam started by Democrats'
- Patent workers paid to exercise, shop, do chores: report
- Fla. mom arrested for allowing 7-year-old son to walk to park alone
- CARSON: Rudderless U.S. foreign policy
- Obama thanks Muslims for 'building the very fabric of our nation'
- Obama mum on where illegal immigrant children are sheltered
- Smugglers, rainstorm combine to poke holes in border fence
- Defense lawyer: McDonnell's wife had 'crush' on CEO
- Federal judge grants 90-day stay in D.C. gun case
- Feds sue Pennsylvania State Police over women's fitness tests
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world