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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Supreme Court Takes Up Haugen's Request To Die

Oregon Department of Corrections

The Oregon Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Thursday in a case involving a death row inmate who wants to die. Two-time murderer Gary Haugen is trying to reject a reprieve issued by Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber.

It's definitely an unusual situation. Normally you'd expect people on death row to be happy about having their execution delayed. But Haugen had dropped all of his appeals and was actually trying to be executed. He repeatedly told judges that he was ready. And the courts ruled him competent to make that decision.

So Haugen wasn't too pleased when just a couple of weeks before he was scheduled to die, Governor Kitzhaber put a halt to his execution. The Governor said he wanted people in Oregon to examine the death penalty and whether it's a good idea.

Haugen sued. He said the reprieve was something he never sought and therefore he rejects it. Lawyers for the state will argue that the Oregon Constitution gives the governor absolute power to grant a reprieve -- and that a reprieve doesn't have to be accepted to be valid.

It will likely take several months for the Oregon Supreme Court to issue a decision.

On the Web:

Capital Punishment in Oregon - Oregon Department of Corrections
Narrated tour of Oregon's execution chamber - Capitol Currents