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Reprieved Oregon death row prisoner granted right to be executed

By Paul Harris, The Observer
Sunday, August 5, 2012 3:16 EDT
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Convicted murderer Gary Haugen has rejected clemency of Oregon governor John Kitzhaber, and says he wants to die

America’s emotional debate over the role of the death penalty has taken a strange new twist after a convicted killer has been granted the legal right to insist on his right to be executed.

Oregon death row inmate Gary Haugen, who was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend’s mother and also another prisoner, says he still wants to die – despite a reprieve by anti-death penalty Oregon governor John Kitzhaber.

Now a court has granted Haugen, 49, the right to reject Kitzhaber’s clemency move, which was issued just weeks before he was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection last December.

Kitzhaber had vowed that no death sentences would be carried out in Oregon while he was in office.

But Judge Timothy Alexander has ruled in favour of Haugen, saying that earlier cases had established his right not to accept the stay of execution.

“My decision … is not intended to be a criticism of Governor Kitzhaber or the views he has expressed. I’m required to set aside my personal views and decide this case on its merits and the law,” the judge wrote in his judgement.

However, the matter is not settled.

The reprieve, which was set to expire after Kitzhaber left office, is now going be the subject of a legal appeal by the governor’s legal team to get it put back place.

Only when that appeal is heard will a new execution date be set.

Haugen was sentenced to death for the 2007 murder of fellow prisoner David Polin.

He and another inmate had stabbed Polin 83 times and crushed his head.

At the time Haugen was serving a life sentence for the murder of Mary Archer, who he beat to death to death in 1981.

America has a difficult relationship with the death penalty, which many other countries across the world have long abandoned. It varies state-by-state and often shifts with public opinion over time.

Oregon has instituted the death penalty and then got rid of it numerous times in its history.

At the moment the trend in the US is moving away from it. Since 2007 some five states, including Oregon, have stopped using it, making a total of 16 US states that no longer execute prisoners.

© Guardian News and Media 2012

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