[W]e have done nothing. We have avoided the question.
John Kitzhaber, Governor of Oregon
Here's a hint: In Oregon you have to volunteer.
Enough. I don't want to be coy. That's from a statement issued by Governor Kitzhaber explaining why it is that he is imposing a moratorium on executions in his state for the remained of his time in office. There have, he said, been a total of two executions there in the last 49 years. Both in the 1990s. Both while he was Governor. Both volunteers.
Now there is another. Gary Haugen, Oregon's third volunteer. And he had a death warrant, a date with the Reaper. And now he doesn't.
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.
What to do.
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.
. . .
Fourteen years ago, I struggled with the decision to allow an execution to proceed. Over the years I have thought if faced with the same set of circumstances I would make a different decision. That time has come.
Kitzhaber is very clear. He's not commuting the sentences of the men on the row (though he observes that he could). He's not saying Oregon can't have a death penalty. He's saying he won't kill. The goal offends, but it's the law. He thinks it should be changed. He's calling on the legislature to change it. In the meantime, the system is irredeemably broken. And just wrong.
And he? He won't be complicit. William Yardley in the Times:
Governor Kitzhaber said his decision was rooted in policy and personal views. He noted he had taken an oath as a physician to “never do harm.” Asked with whom he had consulted, he said, “Mostly myself.”
Which was enough to ensure that the question would no longer be avoided.