On Tuesday, November 22, Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon declared a moratorium on all executions in his state. Among other things, he said:
“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.” And: “I am convinced we can find a better solution that keeps society safe, supports the victims of crime and their families and reflects Oregon values. “ (It is definitely worth reading the entire statement.)
And, while you’re at it, take a little time to thank this Governor for his unusually heartfelt action.
This is the first governor-imposed moratorium on executions since Governor George Ryan halted executions in Illinois in the year 2000. There the issue was innocence (13 exonerations at the time compared to 12 executions); here, one of the issues is “volunteers”. Both Oregon’s post-reinstatement executions have been of men who chose to give up their appeals, and Gary Haugen, scheduled for execution on December 6 was actively pursuing his own death. Governor Kitzhaber called the execution of those voluntarily seeking to be killed a “perversion of justice.”
For Governor Kitzhaber, this was obviously a weighty decision. He had been governor back in the 1990s when Oregon’s two executions were carried out, and clearly his failure to intervene then has haunted him. “I do not believe that those executions made us safer; and certainly they did not make us nobler as a society.” But admitting such profound changes of heart does not happen every day, in or out of politics.
Again, Governor Kitzhaber should be thanked for taking such a principled stand.