Oregon Execution Is Off

November 22, 2011

Update 5:30pm:  The Governor of Oregon has said he will block the execution of Gary Haugen, and indeed all executions in his state.

Today the Oregon Supreme Court, by a 4-3 vote (“It is by such razor-thin margins that we determine who lives and who dies”) declined to order a new mental competency hearing for Gary Haugen, who is orchestrating his own execution, now definitively scheduled for December 6.

There is ample evidence that Mr. Haugen suffers from serious mental illness (beyond his “volunteering” to be executed), but he fired the lawyers who were attempting to put that evidence in front of a judge.

These kinds of “voluntary” executions often involve serious mental illness, and account for over 10% of all executions in the U.S.  But Oregon does not have to play along.  Governor John Kitzhaber can rule that, given the unanswered questions about mental competency, the execution should not go forward.  Urge him to do so.

This case should be a warning for states like Oregon (last execution in 1997), which are not particularly pro-capital punishment but still have the law on their books.  A morbid farce like this can only be prevented by total abolition of the death penalty.