"Kitzhaber should lead death penalty debate," is the editorial published in today's Corvallis Gazette-Times.
The narrow line that Gov. John Kitzhaber is walking on the death penalty is even narrower now that the Legislature has failed to put a ballot measure on the issue before Oregon voters in 2014.
Kitzhaber won some more time on the issue last month, when the state Supreme Court backed his decision to give a reprieve to Oregon death row inmate Gary Haugen, convicted of two murders. Haugen didn’t want the reprieve, but the court ruled that Kitzhaber was within his powers.
Kitzhaber opposes the death penalty. He intervened weeks before Haugen was scheduled to die by lethal injection in 2011; at that time, the governor vowed to block any execution during his term in office and urged a statewide vote on abolishing the death penalty.
The problem is that the Legislature wasn’t particularly interested in dealing with the issue this session — and, truthfully, Kitzhaber didn’t seem that interested in spending much of his political capital on it.
It adds up to another missed opportunity for Oregonians interested in finally ridding the state of the death penalty – although the issue may still be a hot one in the 2014 campaign, for reasons Kitzhaber may not have anticipated.
If he runs for re-election, Kitzhaber owes Oregon voters a clear statement about what he would do with death penalty cases that reach his desk during a new term. He’s succeeded in keeping the issue at bay thus far in his term, but we expect more from the governor. Here’s an instance where vigorous leadership could make the difference in reshaping Oregon values for the better.
Earlier coverage from Oregon begins at the link.