JPay Blog

Putting a Moratorium on the Death Penalty

In late November, the Governor of Oregon announced that his state will not conduct any executions for the remainder of his term in office.  Gov. John Kitzhaber implemented this moratorium while granting temporary reprieve to an inmate originally scheduled to receive the ultimate punishment on December 6th.

Governor Kitzhaber made his announcement against the backdrop of a national debate over the death penalty, a debate that seems to resurface every year.  This year, Georgia’s execution of Troy Davis amid witness recantations and claims of questionable evidence inspired hundreds of protests and rallies worldwide.  Texas, always seemingly at the forefront of any death penalty debate, created headlines twice this year with the execution of Mexican citizen (and convicted rapist and murderer) Humberto Leal Garcia, as well as US Supreme Court intervention in the death sentencing of Duane Buck, whose trial featured racially-tainted testimony by the prosecution’s psychologist.

Oregon has largely been outside of these national debates, as it has only executed two people in the last 50 years.  Indeed, Oregonians have repealed and reinstated the death penalty statute three separate times since 1864, with the latest incarnation (in 1984) requiring a death row inmate to waive all right to appeal and effectively volunteer to receive the death penalty.  Yet faced with the order to execute Gary Haugen last month, Gov. Kitzhaber decided that he would no longer support the practice, not even at a ratio of one state-sponsored death every 25 years.

In making his decision, the governor cited some of the other states that have abolished the death penalty, including New Jersey and New Mexico.  He also cited the expense and inefficiency associated with the nation’s death rows compared to general prison populations.  But mostly, he cites the inequality of Oregon’s capital punishment laws, in impactful moral terms.  This, from his statement printed in The Oregonian:

Oregonians have a fundamental belief in fairness and justice – in swift and certain justice. The death penalty as practiced in Oregon is neither fair nor just; and it is not swift or certain. It is not applied equally to all. It is a perversion of justice that the single best indicator of who will and will not be executed has nothing to do with the circumstances of a crime or the findings of a jury.

The only factor that determines whether someone sentenced to death in Oregon is actually executed is that they volunteer. The hard truth is that in the 27 years since Oregonians reinstated the death penalty, it has only been carried out on two volunteers who waived their rights to appeal.

In the years since those executions, many judges, district attorneys, legislators, death penalty proponents and opponents, and victims and their families have agreed that Oregon’s system is broken.

He goes on to describe the shifting scope of the death penalty debate in the Supreme Court and in other states, and then declares this:

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. I do not make this decision lightly.

Gov. Kitzhaber’s approach is unorthodox, if not unique.  He raises important points concerning the viability of the death penalty, not just in Oregon, but in all states where it is legal.  He has added another voice to the national dialogue concerning this practice, and in our opinion, he has made an appropriate, good, and moral stand for the citizens of Oregon.

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14 Comments

  1. Nina

    August 4, 2014 - 9:39 am

    It is absolutely unacceptable that USA still allows executions to take place. Too many innocent people have bee executed…that alone warrants abolition in ALL states. And what about the recent executions when inmates were given ineffective drugs and suffered enormously on the gurney before dying of heart attacks.
    Incredible that USA continues with these barbaric acts and still claims to be the most democratic country in the world!

  2. Lauren

    May 4, 2012 - 8:41 pm

    ONE Vital Question! (And don’t even Say Never because if it happened to a Nice Missionary Family’s kid with zero Priors and not even a current speeding ticket, it coul d happen to you!) “WHAT IF YOU WERE FALSELY ACCUSED, RAILROADED, AND SENT TO PRISON WITH NO WAY TO PROVE YOUR INNOCENCE BECAUSE THE JUDGE COMPLETELY FOUND A WAY TO HIDE THE ONE THING PROVING YOUR INNOCENCE BY BANNING IT,YOUR DNA,,, Would you Then Want Death Sentence or Harsh Prison Regulations.. Well It’s Deffinnently NO Party inside as a Family of a wrongfully accused! Lack OF MEDICAL Low BUDGET FOOD( in MI Budget less than $2.00 Per Day) and Way BEYOND OVERCROWDED!! YOU ANSWER HONESTLY, YOU’D THINK HARD BEFORE SPEAKING, JUDGMENT!!!

  3. axel

    January 19, 2012 - 4:40 am

    You got your wish Mike. The American justice system is a savage and brutal concept and the USA is light years behind the rest of the civilised world and is steeped in shame and calumny. When the history of America is written this period will be remembered with ignominy.

  4. tammy scoby

    January 16, 2012 - 2:08 pm

    @ Mike DeLuna: First of all, not all families can “provide a comfortable situation” for their incarcerated loved one(s). I am WAY below the national poverty level. All my income, or almost all of it, goes toward my kids. We don’t have enough $ coming in to pay the exhorbitant phone call pricing so my twins can hear their Daddy’s voice as often as they need/deserve to hear it. I can barely afford the ability to e-mail him and to get emails from him. Yet we still suffer, especially my Babies, as they have yet to get their Daddy’s arms for hugs… the only time they have seen their Dad was thru a monitor screen at the local jail when he was being prosecuted on a charge for which. the Prosecutor did NOT have enuff evidence…the Prosecutor here bullied him into a plea bargain for two reasons: his two prior felonies, AND because he’s an American Indian. The justice system is far from just. Take also into consideration that my ex-husband, who is white, got away with nearly killing me (or paralyzing me from neck down permanently). Wth? The American “injustice” system has always been biased against blacks and American Indians. Look at Leonard Peltier, he was due for release quite. some time ago, and the FEDS still have him locked. up. He is a political prisoner!!! That all having been said, I ONLY support the death penalty IF there is irrefutable evidence pointing toward the guilt of the accused, AND accused is facing charges no less than murder or rape (regardless of the victim’s age).

  5. sheila Reinhardt

    January 15, 2012 - 3:33 am

    I used to think that the death penalty was cruel and unjust but in 1998 my 32 year old brother was stabbed 38 times by 2 other inmates in a INDIANA prison-the reason was they just felt like killing someone-1 of the inmates was executed 18 months later so people just stop and think how you would feel if that happened to someone you love!!!

  6. Mike DeLuna

    January 14, 2012 - 5:29 pm

    Wait until you are a family member of murder and see how you feel about the death penalty. Our prisons and jails are over-crowded with criminals because this country feels that we are above the rest of the world. The fact of the matter is that we are weaker than the rest of the world because of this reasoning. We should become harder on criminals as many other countries are. Maiming, caning, public hangings, the electric chair are just a few things that should be brought back. Our criminals would sincerely think twice about committing crime if they knew these sentencings could and would be put upon them. Time in prision in the U.S. is too easy that’s why our correctional facilities are full. WE NEED TO GET TOUGH AND REALLY PUNISH OUR CRIMINALS. Repeat offenders don’t care about doing time because their families provide them with money and goods to make their lives Very comfortable while confined. The families suffer on the outside while offenders live without responsibility for the pain and hardships they cause their loved ones. Let them do hard time and let’s keep the hardship where it belongs – with the offender. We spend BILLIONS of dollars every year to safe guard and confine criminals. Death row criminals should be put to death quickly after their conviction – not ten to twenty years later. I’m proud to be a Texan and glad this state will never repeal it’s death penalty. Come to Texas with the intention of committing a crime – then be prepared to do the time!

  7. DeMarcus Brown

    January 11, 2012 - 6:10 pm

    Amen! Jack, I’m in agreement with you. I dont agree with a person killing another person. but, the US have killed more innocent people on death roll. Executing people without looking at the facts in question is just plain WWRONG………….

  8. Jack Mitchum

    January 6, 2012 - 11:33 am

    @ Heinz Jurgen and Mai. It is such a pity that we are preaching to the choir – if only we could get people in authority to open their, ears minds and hearts, planet earth will be a far, far better place to live.

  9. Mai

    January 4, 2012 - 12:19 am

    When you can fairly convict a person with a fair jury of his/her peers, mind you both the term peers and fair need to be elaborated on to be “fair”, then I might support the death penalty. But until such time, then no the death penalty should be off the table. I do believe that people who commit crimes should be punished but how can a person learn from their misdeeds if they are dead? The prison system is call the “Correctional system” not the “Let’s just kill’em system”. I do feel that people should be allowed second chances however not without monitoring. Cali. just killed a man who changed his ways and was even supported by the family of the person he killed. Now you have to show major change if the family of the person you killed supports you living. The death penalty is a heinous unjust system pulled from a less civilized time that has yet to be proven fair in my book.

  10. Heinz Jürgen Gassner

    December 29, 2011 - 10:27 am

    As a Christian I do not feel it is our right to take a life intentionally. The only exception is when you have to defend yourself or your children, and that is a pretty clear God-given right. There are too many innocent people imprisoned to execute someone. I could not live with the guilt if I voted to execute someone and later found out that they were innocent. Life imprisonment is punishment enough, and let God take care of the rest. There is a worse punishment than death, and that is an eternity in hell.

  11. Jack Mitchum

    December 16, 2011 - 3:29 pm

    Pftt! Simply because the way the death penalty is enacted in the USA. You guys kill far too many innocent people because of your vastly inferior policing and justice system. Despite the great many innocent people mudered by the state (and these are only the ones we know about) I have yet to hear of a warden or PA sitting 16 years on death row while he waits to be executed for killing an innocent person.

    You don’t have to be “sorry” for your opinions after all everyone is entitled to have one America is a free country (HA!) you can wear a funny green hat and dance naked at the crossroads at midnight, although in the USA you are likely get your ass tazed by a cop who is there to “protect and serve you.”

    If our retribution is equally as horrific as the crime are we any better than the so called criminal? You who is without sin pick up the first stone…

  12. zully

    December 15, 2011 - 11:58 am

    im sorry but i sgree with the death penalty. but only for those who are charged for pre meditated murder of any human being and for any rapist. these animals deserve the death penalty for those crimes. if a murderer were to kill my child i would be in the front roll seat as they execute the bastard. they deserve to be dead. becuz no child or innocent person deserves to die in the hands of a murderer or a serial killer. why should they get the chance to live after they have commited a horrible crime. they should feel the pain the innocent people fault..

  13. Jack Mitchum

    December 13, 2011 - 5:39 pm

    The death penalty is neither fair, just, moral, rightous. It is high time the USA shrugged of this troglodite attitude to justice. Take a step into the 21st century and become part of the rest of the world. “And justice for all” – yeah sure!

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