The Ever-Changing Words of Gary Haugen

In this May 18, 2011, file photo taken in Salem, Ore., convicted killer Gary Haugen leaves Marion County Courthouse after a hearing. Photo from the Associated Press

Winston Ross has written an excellent article for The Daily Beast about the recent move by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to ban executions in the state. In it, he details the case of Gary Haugen, who was scheduled to be executed on December 6.

“Thirty years ago, a jury convicted a 19-year-old man named Gary Haugen of aggravated murder for killing his ex-girlfriend’s mother at her home in northeast Portland, Ore., after finding out she’d tried to persuade her daughter to abort his child.

“Haugen didn’t get the death penalty then. Oregon voters were three years away from reinstating capital punishment by a statewide initiative, reversing the Oregon Supreme Court’s 1981 decision declaring it unconstitutional. But when Haugen and another inmate bludgeoned and shanked a fellow prisoner at the Oregon State Penitentiary in 2003 with homemade knives and a steel screw—leaving the man with 84 stab wounds and a crushed skull—Marion County jurors decided it was a crime he should pay for with his life.”

Haugen initially responded to the news of Kitzhaber’s move with enthusiasm. “We won,” Haugen told The Oregonian in a phone interview. In another article for The Oregonian, the headline reads “Oregon death row inmate Gary Haugen hails Kitzhaber’s execution moratorium as victory.” In that article, Haugen is quoted as saying “”Now the system’s going to get looked at.”

However, Haugen is now slamming Kitzhaber and his decision, saying the governor didn’t have the guts to carry out the execution.

“I feel he’s a paper cowboy,” Haugen said. “He couldn’t pull the trigger.”

Haugen now says that he has had time to reflect he has decided the governor “basically pulled a coward’s move” and that he plans to ask lawyers about possible legal action to fight Kitzhaber’s temporary reprieve, which lasts until the governor leaves office.

“I’m going to have to get with some serious legal experts and figure out really if he can do this,” Haugen said. “I think there’s got to be some constitutional violations. Man, this is definitely cruel and unusual punishment. You don’t bring a guy to the table twice and then just stop it.”

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