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Kitzhaber Scores Legal Victory Over Death Row Inmate

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Legislative Media

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has scored a major legal victory in a case that pits him against a death row inmate who wants to be executed. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the governor does have the right to spare Gary Haugen 's life.

Two-time convicted murderer Gary Haugen has dropped all his appeals and was set to be put to death in late 2011. But two weeks before Haugen's scheduled execution, Kitzhaber suspended the death penalty for as long as he's in office.

Haugen sued. He called the reprieve cruel and unusual punishment because it lacked a specific end date. And he questioned whether a reprieve is permitted if the recipient refuses it.

The court rejected Haugen's arguments.

Chief Justice Thomas Balmer wrote that Kitzhaber's reprieve is "valid and effective."

In a statement, Kitzhaber praised the court's ruling and renewed his call for the state to reevaluate its current system of capital punishment. Oregon lawmakers this year considered then dismissed a proposal to put a death penalty repeal on the ballot.

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