LOS ANGELES — The governor of Oregon announced a halt to executions in the northwestern US state, the latest to drop capital punishment as a penal option.
Governor John Kitzhaber issued a temporary reprieve for a prisoner due to die next month, and said he would allow no more executions while he remains in office.
Kitzhaber, who approved executions in 1996 and 1997, said the current system was unfair, as it allowed some criminals to serve jail time for the same offense that others faced the death sentence for.
He said he regretted his previous decisions.
“They were the most agonizing and difficult decisions I have made as governor and I have revisited and questioned them over and over again during the past 14 years.
“I do not believe that those executions made us safer; and certainly they did not make us nobler as a society. And I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong,” he said in a statement.
And he added: “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.”
“It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach… 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.”
The Oregon governor’s announcement follows a trend for fewer US states to allow capital punishment.
Kitzhaber noted that Illinois banned executions earlier this year, joining along with New Jersey and New Mexico the ranks of states that no longer include capital punishment as a sentencing option.
While 34 states still have it on their statute books, only 12 applied it in 2010, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-governmental organization (NGO).
A total of 46 executions were carried out in the US last year, half of the number a decade previously, while the number of death sentences handed down — 110 — was barely a third of the number in the early 1990s.