[JURIST] Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber [official website] on Tuesday issued a temporary reprieve for death row inmate Gary Haugen and called for an end [press release] to the state’s death penalty [JURIST news archive]. The state has executed only two individuals in the last 49 years and each execution was with the prisoner’s consent. Kitzhaber said, “I do not believe that those executions made us safer; and certainly they did not make us nobler as a society.” He stated:
Oregonians have a fundamental belief in fairness and justice—in swift and certain justice. The death penalty as practiced in Oregon is neither fair nor just; and it is not swift or certain. It is not applied equally to all. It is a perversion of justice that the single best indicator of who will and will not be executed has nothing to do with the circumstances of a crime or the findings of a jury. The only factor that determines whether someone sentenced to death in Oregon is actually executed is that they volunteer. … I am calling on the legislature to bring potential reforms before the 2013 legislative session and encourage all Oregonians to engage in the long overdue debate that this important issue deserves.
Kitzhaber said that is “convinced we can find a better solution that keeps society safe, supports the victims of crime and their families and reflects Oregon values.”
The death penalty remains a controversial issue across the US. Earlier this week, the Connecticut Supreme Court [official website] upheld [JURIST report] the constitutionality of the state’s death penalty law. Earlier this month, the Ohio Supreme Court [official website] announced that it was forming a committee to ensure that the death penalty is not administered arbitrarily [JURIST report]. In March, Illinois abolished capital punishment [JURIST report], concluding that there was no way to rid the capital punishment system of its discriminatory flaws. In 2009, New Mexico repealed its death penalty [JURIST report] on similar grounds to Illinois, asserting that the state could not possibly administer the death penalty impartially.