November 22, 2016 - Five years ago today, Governor John Kitzhaber issued a moratorium on carrying out executions of Oregon’s death row prisoners and called our death penalty a broken system. Governor Kate Brown has continued that moratorium. Both suggested that Oregonians needed to have a conversation about the morality and effectiveness of keeping a death penalty system. While the governor cannot get rid of the death penalty, only voters can do that, we suggest it is now time for the governor to commute all death row sentences.
New information regarding innocence, disability, and race has come to light that reinforces the widespread concern that Oregon’s death penalty system is broken:
February 20, 2015 - During her first news conference since taking office as governor, Kate Brown said that Oregon's death penalty system deserves broader discussion and she intends to continue the moratorium on executions that has been in place since 2011.
“There needs to be a broader discussion about fixing the system. Until that discussion I am upholding the moratorium . . . imposed by Gov. Kitzhaber.”
David Fidanque, executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, said Gov. Brown’s announcement represents a common sense approach to a difficult and emotional issue.
“Oregon’s death penalty system is riddled with both practical and constitutional problems,” Fidanque said, “not the least of which is that our state’s method of execution – lethal injection – has led to botched executions elsewhere in the nation and is currently under review by the U.S. Supreme Court. Regardless of the outcome of that case, Oregon’s system provides neither dependable outcomes nor justice.”
February 17, 2015 - With less than 24 hours before Governor John Kitzhaber’s resignation, we call upon the Governor to commute the death sentences of every inmate on Oregon’s death row to life without parole.
Here's the text of the letter we sent to Governor Kitzhaber:
Dear Governor Kitzhaber,
On behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, and our thousands of members and supporters throughout the state, I implore you to use your constitutional authority as Governor to commute the capital sentences of the thirty-four men and one woman currently on Oregon’s death row to sentences of life without the possibility of parole.
June 20, 2013 - The Oregon Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion confirming the Governor’s broad constitutional powers to grant reprieves, commutations or pardons for all offenses (excepting acts of treason) and stated that Governor Kitzhaber’s reprieve of Gary Haugen’s death sentence is valid. The ACLU Foundation of Oregon had filed a “friend of the court” brief urging the state Supreme Court to recognize the Governor’s constitutional authority to grant a temporary reprieve of a death sentence.
In November 2011, Governor John Kitzhaber issued just such a reprieve to death row inmate Gary Haugen who had waived his remaining appeals of his death sentence. A death warrant was issued and an execution date was set for Haugen. In stopping the execution, Kitzhaber stated his belief that Oregon’s system of capital punishment is one that is broken and flawed and that as long as he was governor he would not allow this execution to occur. The Supreme Court recognized that the Governor’s action was not a private act of grace from an individual happening to possess power, but rather part of the Constitutional scheme that permits the chief executive to act in service of the public welfare.
November 22, 2011 - At a press conference this afternoon, Gov. Kitzhaber said he will not allow further executions while he's in office and is calling for a review of the death penalty system in Oregon.
November 7, 2011 - The ACLU of Oregon has joined other death penalty opponents in sending a petition to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber urging him to take the bold action of stopping the pending execution of death row inmate Gary Haugen. Oregon’s death penalty system is broken.
It is expected that Haugen, who has had life-long bouts of mental instability, will be executed at 7 p.m. on December 6. As our petition to the governor points out, Haugen has decided to waive his rights to further court appeals because he views a life sentence as worse than a death sentence.