Oregon Supreme Court upholds governor’s reprieve for death-row inmate who wants to die

June 20, 2013   http://www.startribune.com

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber can delay the lethal injection of a death-row inmate who wants to waive his appeals and speed his execution, the state’s highest court ruled Thursday.

The Oregon Supreme Court said Kitzhaber did not overstep his power when he granted a reprieve delaying the death sentence of Gary Haugen, who was convicted of two murders.

Kitzhaber opposes the death penalty and intervened weeks before Haugen was scheduled to be executed in 2011. The governor said he refused to allow an execution under a state death-penalty system he views as broken, vowing to block any execution during his term in office.

Haugen challenged Kitzhaber’s clemency, saying the reprieve was invalid because Haugen refused to accept it. He also argued that it wasn’t actually a reprieve but rather an illegal attempt by the governor to nullify a law he didn’t like.

The governor argued that his clemency power is absolute, and nobody — certainly not an inmate on death row — can prevent him from doing what he believes to be in the state’s best interest.

Kitzhaber has urged a statewide vote on abolishing the death penalty, although the Legislature has shown little interest in putting it on the ballot in 2014. He renewed his request after the ruling Thursday, saying capital punishment “has devolved into an unworkable system that fails to meet the basic standards of justice.”

“I am still convinced that we can find a better solution that holds offenders accountable and keeps society safe, supports the victims of crime and their families and reflects Oregon values,” Kitzhaber said in a statement.

The case involved a sparsely explored area of law — how much power the governor has to reduce, delay or eliminate criminal sentences. The justices had very little precedent to guide their decision, and neither lawyer could point to any other case where an inmate challenged an unconditional reprieve that spared him from the death penalty.

Haugen was sentenced to death along with an accomplice in 2007 for the jailhouse murder of a fellow inmate. At the time, Haugen was serving a life sentence for fatally beating his former girlfriend’s mother in 1981.

Americans and their elected representatives have expressed mixed feelings about the death penalty. Lawmakers abolished capital punishment in New Mexico, New Jersey and Connecticut, but Californians turned down a chance to follow suit at the ballot box last year.

In 2000, then-Gov. George Ryan of Illinois issued a moratorium on the death penalty after numerous condemned inmates were exonerated. The Legislature abolished capital punishment more than a decade later.

OREGON – Death Row Inmate Asks Judge to Permit His Execution – Gary Haugen

July 24, 2012

SALEM, Ore. – Twice convicted murderer Gary Haugen is asking the state of Oregon to execute him. The death row inmate appeared in a Marion County courtroom today . He’s challenging an order by Governor John Kitzhaber that placed a moratorium on the death penalty while the Democrat is in office.

Haugen’s attorney Harrison Latto told the judge the reprieve leaves his client with an uncomfortable level of uncertainty.

“For the reason also that the reprieve is clearly not for Mr. Haugen’s benefit, he will have to endure what he considers to be onerous conditions”

Attorneys for the state countered that an inmate can’t refuse an unconditional benefit granted by the governor.

Judge Timothy Alexander said there was no need for Haugen himself to make any statements at this hearing. It’s not clear when he will make his final decision.

Oregon – death-row inmate Gary Haugen in court this week

July 22, 2012 http://www.oregonlive.com/

SALEM — Oregon death-row inmate Gary Haugen is heading back to court this week in his bid to carry out his death sentence.

Gov. John Kitzhaber granted Haugen an unwanted reprieve on Nov. 22 two weeks before the twice-convicted murderer was to be executed.

The Statesman Journal reports that Timothy Alexander, a senior judge from Washington County, will hear arguments in Haugen’s civil suit on Tuesday in Marion County Circuit Court. He is not expected to decide the case immediately.

Kitzhaber vowed at his Nov. 22 announcement there would be no executions carried out as long as he was governor.

Oregon has executed two people since voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984.

OREGON – Death Row Inmate Sues to be Executed – Gary Haugen

june 17, 2012  Source : http://www.allgov.com

Oregonian Gary Haugen is having trouble making up his mind whether he wants to live or die. The 49-year-old prisoner has been on death row since 2007 for fatally beating and stabbing fellow inmate David Polin in 2003, while Haugen was serving a life sentence without parole for beating his ex-girlfriend’s mother to death in 1981. Both crimes were exceptionally violent: Polin’s skull was crushed and he had been stabbed 84 times.

Originally scheduled to die August 16, 2011, Haugen waived his appeals to protest the “arbitrary and vindictive nature of the death penalty,” but the Oregon Supreme Court cancelled his execution because Haugen’s attorneys argued that he was mentally incompetent to waive his appeals. After a hearing found him competent, he was scheduled to die December 6, when Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced he was granting Haugen a reprieve from execution, and that he would not allow any executions to proceed, at least until the state legislature has a chance to consider and enact reforms. Kitzhaber called Oregon’s death penalty system “compromised and inequitable.”
Haugen initially thought Kitzhaber’s action “was a smash, [that] something good was done,” and his attorneys filed papers accepting the Governor’s reprieve. Within a short time, however, Haugen changed his mind, calling the Kitzhaber “a paper cowboy” who “couldn’t pull the trigger.” He was particularly critical of Kitzhaber’s decision to submit possible reforms to the 2013 State Legislature, rather than in 2012; that decision likely flowed from the fact that the legislature meets for only 35 days in even numbered years but for 160 days in odd years.
Now Haugen wants the courts to force Kitzhaber to allow his execution. In a lawsuit filed May 24, Haugen’s new attorneys argue that a pardon or reprieve must be accepted by the inmate to be valid, and that Haugen’s prior attorneys did not have his consent to file papers welcoming the reprieve. They also argue that Governor Kitzhaber exceeded his constitutional authority in granting the reprieve, because a reprieve is ordinarily time-limited, rather than open-ended.
The lawsuit may face rough going, however, as it relies on two very old cases (from 1918 and 1926) for its “acceptance” argument, and cites only a 43-year-old legal dictionary for the proposition that the Governor can issue only time-limited reprieves. Neither theOregon Constitution nor relevant statutes place any such restrictions on the Governor’s power.


OREGON – Death Row Inmate Demands Execution – Gary D. Haugen

June 15, 2012 Source : http://www.courthousenews.com

SALEM, Ore.  – A death row inmate sued Gov. John Kitzhaber in state court, demanding to be put to death. Kitzhaber “announced that he would refuse to permit any further executions to occur while he served as governor, Gary D. Haugen says in his complaint in Marion County Court. Kitzhaber issued a “temporary reprieve of plaintiff’s death sentence” in November and then imposed the moratorium.
Haugen, 50, seeks judicial intervention, calling his reprieve “invalid and ineffective” because he refuses to accept it. He claims that state law requires that the person receiving a reprieve accept it. “Plaintiff has rejected the reprieve and therefore it is legally ineffective to halt the execution of this sentence,” the complaint states.
Haugen also claims that the reprieve is “beyond the governor’s constitutional authority” because it does not last for a definite time.
He also questions the governor’s reasons for issuing the reprieve. Rather than suspending the death penalty because it is inhumane, Kitzhaber suspended it “because of defendant’s moral opposition,” Haugen says.
He claims that the Oregon Constitution “does not confer upon him [Kitzhaber] the power to suspend the operation of any Oregon law for the reason that he is opposed to it.”
Haugen claims that a governor may grant clemency, but it must be because it has been determined that the prisoner deserves mercy, which may come in the form of a pardon, a reduction in sentence or a reprieve based on the inhumanity or injustice of proceeding with the death penalty.
Kitzhaber has called the death penalty ineffective and “morally wrong,” and said he does not wish to “participate” in it.
Haugen quotes the governor as saying, “Oregon’s application of the death penalty is not fairly and consistently applied. [I do] not believe that state-sponsored executions bring justice.”
A death warrant hearing in September 2011 found Haugen competent to be executed. He accepted the finding and chose not to challenge it. He was scheduled to be executed on Dec. 6, 2011. Haugen asked the court to determine that the governor’s reprieve is unconstitutional, and that the court “would become legally obligated to conduct a death warrant hearing” and “to issue a death warrant directing the plaintiff’s sentence to be carried out.” The complaint does not mention the nature of Haugen’s crime, but Oregon media refer to him as a “two-time killer.”
The case resembles the famous case of Gary Gilmore, who demanded to be executed in Utah in 1977, and got his wish.  Haugen is represented by Harrison Latto of Portland.  

OREGON – Prosecutor agrees with OR death row inmate

april, 3 2012 source : http://www.dailytidings.com

PORTLAND, Ore. — As Oregon death row inmate Gary Haugen fights a reprieve, he has a supporter in Marion County District Attorney Walt Beglau whose office won the death penalty conviction.

Haugen wants to be executed and has asked a circuit court to rule that Gov. John Kitzhaber’s reprieve is legally ineffective because Haugen doesn’t accept it.

Beglau told The Oregonian that’s the central issue in the case. Beglau says he disagrees with Kitzhaber’s reprieve and won’t defend it. The Oregon Justice Department will.

Haugen was sentenced to die for killing another inmate in prison. The governor is opposed to capital punishment.

Oregon – High court again overturns death sentence – Robert Paul Langley Jr.

The Oregon Supreme Court, for the third time in two decades, has overturned a death sentence against Robert Paul Langley Jr. for a murder committed in 1987.

The decision announced Thursday sent the case back to Marion County Circuit Court for further proceedings. District Attorney Walt Beglau has not announced whether he will seek the death penalty for Langley.

Because four of the sitting justices have worked for the Oregon Department of Justice, which represents the state in death-penalty cases, they did not take part in Thursday’s decision. The three remaining justices were joined by a retired justice and a Court of Appeals judge to decide the case.

In essence, the justices decided that Langley was erroneously compelled to represent himself in court when he was sentenced to death again on Nov. 9, 2005.

Death sentences are automatically reviewed by the high court.

Langley, who now is 52, originally was tried in connection with two separate murders.

The body of Anne Gray, 39, was found buried in the backyard of Langley’s aunt in April 1988. Gray’s death dated back to Dec. 10, 1987.

On April 14, 1988, Larry Rockenbrant, 24, was killed and his body found buried in a cactus garden at Oregon State Hospital, where Langley lived while he took part in a program for mentally and emotionally disturbed prison inmates. Langley’s therapist consented to the cactus garden as a way to allow Langley to relax.

Langley was convicted of aggravated murder in separate trials in 1989 and sentenced to death.

The Supreme Court reversed the death sentences in 1992. It ruled that in Gray’s case, the jury was not allowed to hear mitigating evidence, and in Rockenbrant’s case, evidence from Gray’s murder was improperly admitted in the trial.

Langley was sentenced to death for a second time in a retrial for Gray’s murder. But in the Rockenbrant case, he was sentenced to life in prison with a 30-year minimum.

Upon appeal in 2000, the Supreme Court again reversed his death sentence, ruling that the jury failed to consider an option of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

After the case went through three circuit judges — Joseph Guimond, Terry Leggert and Joseph Ochoa, all now retired — Langley was sentenced to death for a third time in Marion County in 2005.

Langley had reshuffled his lawyers several times.

But the sentence came down only after Langley was required to represent himself in the proceeding without the court obtaining a valid waiver of his right to counsel. That self-representation occurred after Ochoa ruled that Langley’s other option was to accept representation by someone who Langley had complaints about — but Ochoa assumed those complaints were frivolous.

“That, too, was not a permissible choice,” said the court’s opinion, written by Justice Robert Durham.

“The record indicates that the court decided that defendant’s (Langley’s) refusal to make the offered choice entitled the court to make the choice itself in favor of compelled self-representation, rather than representation by counsel,” Durham wrote.

“That was (an) error. In our view, because submission of the choice to defendant was itself impermissible, defendant’s refusal to make the proposed choice was entirely proper. It follows that the trial court erred in requiring defendant to proceed to trial on the sentencing phase of a capital murder case without the assistance of legal counsel.”

Oregon Supreme Court   read the opinion ( media release) : click here