Constitutional Law

Judge Says Inmate Who Wants to Be Executed Can Override Governor's Death Penalty Veto

An inmate in Oregon who was sentenced to death after his second murder conviction and wants to be executed has just won a round in an unusual court battle.

Although sympathetic to the views of Gov. John Kitzhaber, a retired Washington County judge hearing the civil Marion County Circuit Court case agreed with Gary Haugen, 50, that he could reject the execution reprieve order signed by the state’s leader, reports the Oregonian.

The state is likely to appeal, so the execution–which, if it occurs, would be Oregon’s first in nearly 15 years–isn’t expected to take place anytime soon.

The state had argued that the governor’s powers trump an inmate’s decision-making, reports the Statesman Journal.

But in his Friday opinion (PDF), Senior Judge Timothy P. Alexander held that “clemency is an act of grace, and the recipient is not obliged to accept it.”

An earlier post provides additional appeals and links to the motion and memorandum filed by Haugen’s lawyer, Harrison Latto.

The lawyer told the Oregonian on Friday that he hadn’t yet spoken to Haugen. But “I’m sure he’ll be gratified that the judge ruled in his favor,” said Latto. “I think he will be happy his legal position has been vindicated.”

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