Jeff Jacoby

Mary Archer's death in 1981 was horrific. Gary Haugen, her daughter's former boyfriend, broke into her home in Portland, Ore., where he raped the 39-year-old, then beat her to a lifeless pulp using his fists, a hammer, and a baseball bat. He pleaded guilty to her murder and was sentenced to life in the Oregon State Penitentiary.

In 2003 Haugen murdered again. He and another prisoner used handmade "shanks" to stab a third inmate, David Polin, 84 times. When Polin, despite those wounds and loss of blood, somehow still clung to life, Haugen finished him off by bashing in his skull with a large metal rod. Security cameras recorded Haugen and the other prisoner dragging Polin's body and trying to clean his blood from their hands. Both men were convicted of aggravated murder and sentenced to death.

Last November, the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed Haugen's conviction and death sentence, and Haugen voluntarily waived any further legal challenges. His death by lethal injection was scheduled for next month. Anti-death penalty activists tried to quash the death warrant, but the state supreme court decided on Nov. 21 that the execution could go forward.

One day later, in a display of preening moral exhibitionism, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber decided that it wouldn't.

Invoking his constitutional authority to grant pardons and commutations, Kitzhaber announced at a press conference that he had issued an indefinite reprieve of Haugen's execution. "I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer," he said – Kitzhaber is a longtime death-penalty opponent – "and I will not allow further executions while I am governor."

Jeff Jacoby

Jeff Jacoby is an Op-Ed writer for the Boston Globe, a radio political commentator, and a contributing columnist for