NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Oregon governor John Kitzhaber announces moratorium on executions

The execution of a Oregon man convicted of two murders – who has been on death row for some time – will not go forward as planned on December 6th, Governor John Kitzhaber announced this afternoon, invoking his authority under the Beaver State’s Constitution to block prison officials from putting Gary Haugen to death.

But Kitzhaber didn’t stop there. He also said that he has has decided to impose a moratorium on all executions while he remains governor.

His courageous action is a major victory for civil liberties in the Pacific Northwest, one that is deserving of recognition and applause.

Speaking at a packed news conference, Kitzhaber explained that he could not, in good conscience, allow the state he leads to put another prisoner to death on his watch. Here’s an excerpt from the substantive, thoughtful remarks he delivered.

The reality is that Oregon’s death row is an extremely expensive life prison term, likely several times more expensive that the life terms of others who happen to have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole — rather than the death penalty.

And while it may be convenient to blame lengthy and expensive death penalty trials and appeals on inmates “working the system,” the truth is courts (and society) continue to reinterpret when, how and under what circumstances it is acceptable for the state to kill someone. Over time, those options are narrowing.

Courts are applying stricter standards and continually raising the bar for prosecuting death penalty cases. Consider that it was only six years ago that the U.S. Supreme Court reversed itself and held that it is unconstitutional to impose capital punishment on those under the age of 18. For a state intent on maintaining a death penalty, the inevitable result will be bigger questions, fewer options and higher costs.

It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach. I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am Governor.

Emphasis is ours.

Abolitionists in Oregon and across the United States hailed the news.

“This action, while courageous on the part of Governor Kitzhaber, also is in line with movement across this country for states to either repeal their death penalty, lessen the use of the death penalty and or create opportunities to study the death penalty. Governor Kitzhaber has shown great leadership with this announcement,” said Rob Steiner, Board Chair of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

We at NPI strongly commend this decision. State-sponsored killing is immoral, unjust, and costly. It is a barbaric practice that needs to end.

We thank Governor John Kitzhaber for intervening to save the life of Gary Haugen and Oregon’s other death row inmates. While the moratorium announced today does not mean that so-called capital punishment has been abolished, it at least means that the State of Oregon won’t be killing anyone in the near future.

We urge the Oregon Legislature to join Governor Kitzhaber in taking a stand for civil liberties by approving legislation outlawing the death penalty in Oregon.

POSTSCRIPT: The Eugene Register-Guard has a nice editorial supporting Kitzhaber’s decision and calling for reform of the criminal justice system.

Adjacent posts

  • Donate now to support The Cascadia Advocate

    Thank you for reading The Cascadia Advocate, the Northwest Progressive Institute’s journal of world, national, and local politics.

    Founded in March of 2004, The Cascadia Advocate has been helping people throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond make sense of current events with rigorous analysis and thought-provoking commentary for more than fifteen years. The Cascadia Advocate is funded by readers like you: we have never accepted advertising or placements of paid content.

    And we’d like it to stay that way.

    Help us keep The Cascadia Advocate editorially independent and freely available by becoming a member of the Northwest Progressive Institute today. Or make a donation to sustain our essential research and advocacy journalism.

    Your contribution will allow us to continue bringing you features like Last Week In Congress, live coverage of events like Netroots Nation or the Democratic National Convention, and reviews of books and documentary films.

    Become an NPI member Make a one-time donation


  1. What a courageous, compassionate, difficult decision to make. I admire this choice by this governor.

    # by Wilma Ice :: December 2nd, 2011 at 9:15 AM
  2. The people voted for and passed the death penalty. Why would a governor not do what the people want?

    # by D Watkins :: December 6th, 2011 at 4:18 PM
    • Because the death penalty is immoral and barbaric.

      And because the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits “cruel and unusual punishment.” There’s no punishment more cruel than hauling an inmate into a windowless room, sticking in a needle in his arm, and injecting him with a cocktail of lethal drugs. State-sanctioned killing is unconstitutional in addition to being immoral.

      John Kitzhaber is a man of principle who believes, as we do, that executing people is inhumane – period. The death penalty cannot be legitimized by a public vote.

      # by Andrew :: December 6th, 2011 at 7:06 PM

One Ping

  1. […] Oregon governor John Kitzhaber announces moratorium on executions […]

    Ping from Morning Rundown for November 25th, 2011 :: November 25th, 2011 at 10:01 AM