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SALEM, Ore. -- Reaction was swift and, in some cases, angry after Gov. John Kitzhaber announced he was halting the execution of GaryHaugen and suspending the death sentence in Oregon.

Kitzhaber fought tears as he said he spoke to relatives of Haugen's victims, saying they were difficult discussions and his heart goes out to them. He declined to discuss them further, calling them private conversations.

We've been dealing with this since 1981, Ard Pratt, Archer's first husband, told The Associated Press. It was almost over. And then he changes it because he's a coward and doesn't want to do it.

Oregon has a complex history with capital punishment. Voters have outlawed it twice and legalized it twice, and the state Supreme Court struck it down once. Voters most-recently legalized the death penalty on a 56-44 vote in 1984.

It is arrogant and presumptuous for an elected official, up to and including the governor, to say, `I don't care with the voters say, I don't care what the courts say, ' and impose his own opinion, said Josh Marquis, a death penalty proponent and the Clatsop County district attorney. Marquis has prosecuted several capital cases and written about capital punishment.

Background: Kitzhaber suspends death sentence in Oregon

Kitzhaber is a former emergency room doctor who still retains an active physician license with the Oregon Medical Board, and his opposition to the death penalty has been well-known. In a news conference explaining his decision, he cited his oath as a physician to do no harm. Kitzhaber was elected last year to an unprecedented third term as governor after eight years away from public office.

Kitzhaber said he has no sympathy or compassion for murderers, but Oregon's death penalty scheme is an expensive and unworkable system that fails to meet basic standards of justice.

His moratorium means Oregon joins, at least temporarily, four other states that have halted executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment. Illinois this year outlawed the death penalty after the discovery of wrongful convictions. New Mexico voters abolished it in 2009, two years after New Jersey's Legislature and governor did the same. A New York appeals court struck down a portion of the death penalty statute.

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