New Oregon governor will continue death penalty moratorium

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Posted: Feb 20, 2015 8:08 PM
New Oregon governor will continue death penalty moratorium

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Friday she'll continue a death penalty moratorium imposed by her predecessor while she seeks a debate about "fixing the system."

Speaking to the media for the first time since she took the reins of state government from John Kitzhaber, Brown offered a glimpse into her style as Oregon's chief executive, but she offered few specifics about her plans.

On the death penalty, however, she made clear that she won't be allowing any executions in the near future.

"There needs to be a broader discussion about fixing the system," Brown said of the death penalty. "Until that discussion, I will be upholding the moratorium imposed by Gov. Kitzhaber."

Kitzhaber announced in 2011 that he would block all executions during his tenure, saying capital punishment is applied arbitrarily and calling for a statewide vote on whether it should stick around. The vote never happened, and Kitzhaber did little to push for it.

The Oregon Supreme Court affirmed the governor's power to issue reprieves when Kitzhaber was sued by Gary Haugen, an inmate convicted of two murders who wanted to waive his appeals and hasten his death.

Kitzhaber resigned effective Wednesday amid ongoing state and federal investigations into his fiancee's work for advocacy groups. He has said they did nothing wrong. Brown said Kitzhaber did not seek a pardon, and she refused to say whether she'd grant one if he were convicted of a crime. He's not been charged.

"At this time, any response to that question would be speculative," Brown said. "The governor has not been charged with anything."

Before he stepped down, Kitzhaber spent months battling media organizations seeking more information about his fiancee's role in his administration and her work for outside groups. He was slow to release records, and his staff tried to get emails from a personal account removed from state servers where they were archived.

Brown said she has asked for legal help from the attorney general's office in wading through public records requests filed during Kitzhaber's tenure. "My goal is to get the records released as quickly as possible, as many records that we are able to release," Brown said.

Brown, a Democrat, was previously the secretary of state. She said she'll appoint her replacement by March 6. Under state law, it must be a Democrat.

Brown lives in Portland and said she will move with her husband, Dan Little, into the governor's mansion in Salem. Kitzhaber used the residence, known as Mahonia Hall, mostly for ceremonial purposes and stayed usually at his Portland home.

"Gov. Kitzhaber and I have very different personalities," Brown said, "so I think my own personality will shine through in its own way."