Oregon's Governor Halts Executions in His State

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Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon said today he will block executions in the state for the remainder of his term, just a few weeks before Oregon was scheduled to execute Gary Haugen, who was convicted of two murders. Kitzhaber, a Democrat, cited his own regrets after allowing two other executions during two earlier terms as governor. The New York Times quotes him saying: "[Those executions] were the most agonizing and difficult decisions I have made as governor and I have revisited and questioned them over and over again during the past 14 years. I do not believe that those executions made us safer; and certainly they did not make us nobler as a society. And I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong."

Of course, Oregon is no Texas, and it has only executed two other inmates since reinstating the death penalty in 1984, both of whom voluntarily waived their appeals, notes the Associated Press. Still, Kitzhaber joins the chorus of death penalty opponents whose cause has gotten attention recently after a failed movement to stop the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia this September, whom many believed was innocent, and increased scrutiny of Texas Governor Rick Perry's record on executions in his state. Kitzhaber hasn't actually commuted the sentence of Haugen or others on death row, but he is asking the legislature to look at the death penalty in its upcoming session. This is certainly a good way of getting their attention on the issue.

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