A condemned inmate who was scheduled to be executed next month is now slamming Gov. John Kitzhaber for giving him a reprieve, saying the governor didn't have the guts to carry out the execution. Two-time murderer Gary Haugen had voluntarily given up his legal challenges, saying he wants to be executed in protest of a criminal justice system he views as broken. But Kitzhaber on Tuesday said he won't allow anyone to be executed while he is in office, calling Oregon's death penalty scheme "compromised and inequitable."
But in a telephone interview with the Statesman Journal on Friday, Haugen mocked Kitzhaber. "I feel he's a paper cowboy," he said. "He couldn't pull the trigger." Haugen's criticism reverses his earlier praise of Kitzhaber's decision during an interview with The Oregonian. He told the Portland newspaper that Kitzhaber cited some of the same criticism of the death penalty that Haugen has raised. After further reflection, Haugen said he came to the conclusion that the governor "basically pulled a coward's move" by acting on his personal beliefs instead of carrying out the will of Oregon voters, who reinstated the death penalty in 1984.
Indeed, it seems Gov. Kitzhaber, a Democrat, is "imposing his values and beliefs" upon the citizens of his state -- an accusation the Left often levels against conservatives in far more dubious contexts. Haugen is actually weighing taking legal action to expedite and ensure his own execution:
The 49-year-old inmate said he plans to ask lawyers about possible legal action to fight Kitzhaber's temporary reprieve, which lasts until the governor leaves office. A Marion County judge had twice signed a death warrant ordering Haugen's execution. The first was reversed when the state Supreme Court intervened; the second was overruled by Kitzhaber two weeks before the Dec. 6 execution. "I'm going to have to get with some serious legal experts and figure out really if he can do this," Haugen said. "I think there's got to be some constitutional violations. Man, this is definitely cruel and unusual punishment. You don't bring a guy to the table twice and then just stop it."
Incidentally, what is the crux of this killer's original criticism of capital punishment in Oregon?
Kitzhaber called Oregon's death penalty system "a perversion of justice," saying the state only executes people who volunteer. Since capital punishment was legalized 27 years ago, only two people have been executed. Both of them, like Haugen, waived their legal challenges.
Indepedent of his guilt and ultimate fate, does the remorseless murderer have a point here?
UPDATE - Leftists often choose to racialize the death penalty debate. Perhaps, therefore, it's worth noting that Haugen is white.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography
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