SALEM -- The state Supreme Court has blocked a planned execution in Oregon until there's more consideration of the inmate's mental competence.
The court has said it needs to see more evidence regarding the competence of Gary Haugen, an Oregon inmate who has dropped his appeals and repeated his wish to die. The court found that the judge in his case didn't do a sufficient job of weighing Haugen's competency before sentencing him to death.
Haugen's execution is set for Aug. 16.
On May 18, Marion County Circuit Judge Joseph Guimond held a competency hearing for Haugen in which he asked him 20 questions and decided that Haugen answered them satisfactorily, proving to Guimond that he could fairly decide for himself whether he wanted to waive his appeals.
Guimond allowed Haugen to discharge his attorneys, over their objections, and at the conclusion of the hearing signed Haugen's death warrant.
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that Haugen, 49, couldn't discharge his attorneys because a neuropsychologist hired by his attorneys found him incompetent. The court also ordered Guimond to decide by July 7 whether he will vacate his decision and allow the Oregon Health Authority to assess Haugen's competency or whether he will argue for his decisions instead.
The Supreme Court set a July 14 court date if Guimond decides to argue for his decisions.
If Guimond decides not to fight the court's ruling, Haugen would be evaluated by the Oregon Health Authority and another competency hearing would be set. In it, Guimond would have to determine whether Haugen is competent enough to waive his attorneys and determine whether he suffers from a mental condition that prevents him from comprehending the reasons for the death sentence or its implication.
Haugen was convicted of a 2003 slaying of a fellow inmate and sentenced to death in a jury trial after the man was found with 84 stab wounds and a crushed skull. Haugen and another inmate were convicted of the murder in 2007. Haugen was already serving time for the 1981 murder of a former girlfriend's mother.
After Guimond handed down the death warrant, death penalty opponents forged ahead with a campaign to spare Haugen, but Haugen has not made their assistance easy. He has repeatedly told his attorneys he doesn't want them to represent him and has insisted he wants to die.
Haugen could stop his execution at virtually any time by saying he wants to appeal, or the governor could commute his sentence. He's scheduled to be executed by lethal injection.
If carried through, the execution would be the state's first in 14 years.
Haugen has written to court officials since 2008 asking to drop his appeals, complaining about a costly broken system and a criminal justice process he called arbitrary and vindictive.
Oregon's last execution was in 1997. The state has executed two inmates since voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984, and both had waived their appeals. Oregon has 35 men and one woman on death row, including Haugen.