In my last News From Death Row roundup, I posted a link to this story about Gary Haugen, an inmate in Orgeon. He was set to receive a hearing in which a judge would ask him a series of questions to determine if he was mentally competent to drop his appeals and be executed. In the Friday, Oct. 7 hearing, Marion County Circuit Judge Joseph Guimond found Haugen legally sane, and ruled him eligible to be put to death. Guimond will sign Haugen’s death warrant in the coming weeks, and prosecutors have asked for a tentative date of Dec. 6 for the execution, which would be the first in Oregon in 14 years.
Haugen had this to say to Judge Guimond:
“I can’t go on,” he said in a low, calm voice. “This is going to be one time where I just don’t do a lot of talking, because I’m ready, your honor. Because I’m ready.”
You can read more about the hearing and Haugen in this article. There’s an interesting part toward the end, in which the author says death penalty opponents are still looking at options to stop the execution, despite Haugen’s wishes to die “with dignity.”
“It’s really not about what Mr. Haugen wants,” said Tom O’Connor, a spokesman for Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty. “It’s about what Oregon wants as a state and its own sense of humanity and identity … Are we a state that cheers when somebody is executed or are we a state that thinks this is not really what we stand for?”
I find it a bit strange that the activists in Oregon want to do the opposite of what this inmate is asking, and I’m not sure what the right answer is to the situation. After all, it’s Haugen, not the activists, who has to sit for decades on death row. Haugen has been in prison since he was 19 years old, and on death row since 2003. Is O’Connor right that it’s not about what Mr. Haugen wants, but is more about the state’s humanity? Or is this trampling over the wishes of an inmate in order to advance the agenda of the cause?