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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 High Court Hears Haugen Vs. Kitzhaber

Oregon Department of Corrections

EUGENE, Ore. – The Oregon Supreme Court Thursday heard arguments in a case that pits a death row inmate against Governor John Kitzhaber. An attorney for Gary Haugen argued that the two-time murderer has the right to reject a reprieve from the death penalty issued by the governor.

The debate revolved around how much power the executive branch has in Oregon.

A lawyer for the state argued that the executive branch has absolute power to grant pardons or reprieves. Anna Joyce said essentially there's no legal precedence anywhere for allowing a prisoner to force a government to execute them.

But Haugen's attorney, Harrison Latto, cited cases that he said establish the right for a convict does have the right to reject an offer of clemency or pardon.

Under questioning Latto could not cite a specific incident where a governor's reprieve of an execution was overturned by a court. But he said reprieves in other cases were successfully rejected.

Kitzhaber's attorney countered that going back to centuries-old English case law, death penalty cases are always considered different.

The case was argued in front of law students at the University of Oregon. It will likely take several months for the Oregon Supreme Court to issue a decision.

On the Web:

Brief: Gary Haugen v John Kitzhaber - University of Oregon School of Law
Capital Punishment in Oregon - Oregon Department of Corrections
Narrated tour of Oregon's execution chamber - Capitol Currents