Oregon Governor Stops Executions

Oregon Governor Stops Executions February 22, 2012

I found this on Stephen Bright’s blog, Second Class Justice. It’s about 3 months old, but I totally missed it at the time and I think it’s very cool. The governor of Oregon has ended executions in his state through the rest of his term in office, becoming the second governor to do so (the other was George Ryan of Illinois).

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber announced on Nov. 22, 2011, that he will not allow the execution of any death row inmate while he is in office. The governor said the death penalty is morally wrong and unjustly administered.

“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,” he stated in a written statement. “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.”

Kitzhaber, who previously served two terms as governor from 1995 to 2003, allowed two executions in his first term – the 1996 execution of Douglas Franklin Wright and the 1997 execution of Harry Charles Moore. “I have regretted those choices ever since,” the governor stated. “Both because of my own deep personal convictions about capital punishment and also because in practice, Oregon has an expensive and unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice.”

How about that, a politician who gives a damn about principle.

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  • Aliasalpha

    “a politician who gives a damn about principle.”

    Hmm, I always thought those 2 things were mutually exclusive

  • MikeMa

    In Oregon, it might not even signal retirement whereas in Texass, or other states, it most certainly would.

  • raven

    In Oregon, it might not even signal retirement whereas in Texass, or other states, it most certainly would.

    It doesn’t look like anyone cared that much one way or another.

    Oregon never did execute too many people and IIRC, at one time didn’t even have a death penalty.

  • How about that, a politician who gives a damn about principle.

    Unlike, say, a politician who probably doesn’t give a damn whether gays have the right marry each other or not, but knows that his only option is to veto that right if he’s to stand any chance of being his party’s nominee for president in four years’ time?

    It’s ancient history these days, but I remember when death penalty votes still came up regularly in the House of Commons in the UK. They were always unwhipped — i.e. votes of conscience with no party pressure to toe the line — and always gained a majority of votes against lifting the ban, even though there was still a substantial majority of Brits in favor at the time.

    Sadly, there isn’t a hope in hell of something like that happening in Washington in the foreseeable future.

  • chilidog99

    As bad as Ryan was as Governor of Illinois, I will always respect him for the moral stand that he took on this issue.

  • lordshipmayhem

    I’m a law-and-order type, preferring to lock the violent away for long stretches of time.

    But as much as I’m for sending the violent criminal far away for the rest of their lives, I’m against the death penalty. While there are many different reasons, the number of people who have been discovered to be erroneously convicted is probably the most compelling. We are only human, after all, and humans make mistakes. It’s far, far easier to apologize to a wrongfully convicted person while they’re still alive than it is after they’re dead.

  • neonsequitur

    chilidog99 @5:

    Ryan was a fucking poser. The only reason he suspended executions was because he was told (incorrectly) that he might get nominated for the Nobel prize if he did so.

  • ambulocetacean

    They still have capital punishment in Oregon? Those hippies really need to get their shit together.

    No more Phish concerts until you’ve sorted this out properly!

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Speaking from Oregon –

    Kitzhaber has always been the most progressive governor we’ve had in my adult lifetime (and going back to my childhood with Vic Atiyeh and Neil Goldschmidtt.

    Barbara Roberts was centrist (more or less, she had some fairly hard-right positions and even more hard-left positions, but those came close to balancing, then on the pragmatic fiscal issues of the day was right-center, leaving me in a place that it’s hard to label her, but “centrist” comes as close as a convenient label can come), Atiyeh right-center, Kulongoski left-center or just centrist, kind of hard to tell sometimes tho’ he did run as a democrat. Neil Goldschmidtt was genuinely left wing on a number of issues but wasn’t as left as Kitzhaber. Plus he is a f*ing child molester, which I cannot fail to mention when talking about him, tho’ that has nothing to do with the political left/right/or center.

    Opposition to the death penalty isn’t lefty per se. If you arrive at opposition through conservative, pro-life, even scumbags were created in the image of god route, you’ve got right-wing opposition. If you come at it through a social analysis of how society affects different persons and groups differently and refuse to be part of an unjust exercise of imbalanced power when it affects a person so seriously as to remove freedom or life, you’ve got left-wing opposition.

    Kitzhaber came at this from the left-wing, and this is indeed in line with the principles that he’s espoused for 30 years. I’m frickin’ proud of him and proud to have voted for him – now 3 times. He is one of the few politicians that hasn’t seriously disappointed me. My ex-wife knows his attorney general and my best friend’s wife is the deputy to one of his department heads (though in DAS which has nothing to do with criminal law) and I am not surprised at this at all, there were no rumblings of him specifically threatening to do this, but he has said things – mostly semi-privately – that indicated he took seriously the challenge to the death penalty implied by the Innocence Project’s exonerations and the executions of people like Todd Willingham.

    For a long time one could be unhappy with the clear statistics about race and wealth affecting the probability of conviction and of receiving a death sentence. However, it wasn’t possible to say whether the problem was rich folk getting away with it or poor folk getting convicted & sentenced unjustly. With the Innocence Project we could point to not only specific cases of poor representation or police misconduct, but point to people who were factually innocent but were nonetheless convicted based on that representation or conduct.

    This places things in a whole new perspective. Notice that Kitzhaber did not execute a single person after the first few months of his second term. It wasn’t the election per se, in fact, maybe it’s bad to think about this as where it falls in his terms of office. Instead, it’s about what was going on in 1996-99 where we were getting more and more information about problems with false convictions being much more systematic than anyone might realize – Gideon notwithstanding. The pattern wasn’t as clear in 97 as it was when Ryan announced his moratorium, but Kitzhaber just stopped executing people – he didn’t make an issue of it, and he did it when he was term-limited from running again. Thus other folk couldn’t make an issue out of it either. But nonetheless, it was noted by me that no executions happened b/c I was monitoring the issue by then. I didn’t know anyone who knew him back then, so I don’t have any insider info about his first 2 terms, but what I’m trying to say is everything he did back then was consistent with someone uncomfortable with the death penalty but feeling as if he had insufficient reason to buck the will of the people (the death penalty was reinstated by statewide vote amending the constitution).

    I love Kitzhaber – as much as I love any politician, anyway. I wish there were more Kitzhabers in the Democratic party.

    Oh, BTW: when Kitzhaber was first elected, his signature issue was health care reform and he managed to get every legal-resident child under 18 covered even if their parents had no legal residency status (for a short period of time undocumented immigrants also accessed the program, but that didn’t last), and many adults, including me, also received state insurance under the then-radical Oregon Health Plan. It was, of course, absolutely gutted after he left office, but still covers every pregnant person and every child under 5 or 6 (don’t remember) not otherwise insured if they can show that purchasing health insurance would be a hardship – which is super easy, given what insurance goes for. Adults rarely get coverage through OHP anymore. Kitzhaber talked about rebuilding OHP when he announced he was running again, but national health reform was more ambitious than what he thought he could get through the state legislature here, so he hasn’t made the effort.

    You can fault him for not strengthening the safety-net until health reform kicks in, but this is a guy who has always governed the way he ran. His principles have always been clear, obvious, and consistent.

    There are few – if any – better people in state-wide or national office anywhere in the US.

    Bet on it.

  • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    as entirely ancillary information – technically I lived in Oregon under Straub as well, but that was the mid-late 70s and I don’t remember him at all.

  • Strategically Shaved Monkey

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t Guvnors allowed to show clemency by pardons and/or conversion of death penalties into (say) life-imprisonment?

    I’d be much more impressed if he did this for all current death row inmates rather than

    Leave them to wait for the next republican to flip the (metaphorical) switch.