[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----OHIO, ORE.
rhalperi at smu.edu
Sun Oct 9 11:23:56 CDT 2011
Civilized society demands the death penalty
There has been a lot of talk recently about Ohio's death penalty. We have all
heard the tired old arguments both for and against the death penalty. In
arguing the death penalty issue, people fight about whether it is a deterrent
but that is not the issue. Similarly, we argue about whether the death penalty
is revenge or justice. It usually is both, but again, we are missing the big
The real issue about capital punishment is whether we value life or not. We
don't seem to be a people who value the life of unborn children. We allow the
state to starve the infirmed (think Terry Shiavo). The only life people seem to
value today is their own.
I think we all could agree that you cannot put a dollar amount on one's life.
So what penalty for a person who intentionally takes an innocent life speaks to
the value of the victim's life? The answer is simple: The value of anything is
determined by the price that is demanded for it. I find it chilling when one
can intentionally take the life of another and the consequences are 10, 20, 30
years in prison. I regularly preach in prisons here in Ohio, and I can tell you
that 1/3 of the world's population would consider an American prison a step up
from their current existence.
Now let's talk about why a civilized society demands the death penalty. The
death penalty is not about vengeance. If the law were about vengeance, then we
would allow the victim's family to beat the inmate to death rather than give
him a tranquilizer before we execute him. The death penalty is not about
deterring someone else from committing murder; otherwise we would hang the
inmate in the town square and televise it for all to see.
The death penalty is about putting the proper value on the life of the victim.
No, executing killers won't bring their victims back. Yet, the death penalty
says to our society that the only true price that can be asked for the life of
the victim is the life of the perpetrator. It says we value life so much that
we can ask the ultimate price be paid for the ultimate crime committed. To do
less diminishes the value of the victim's life and thus diminishes all of our
The death penalty system is broken and unfair in our nation. Reform is needed
to make sure the death penalty is applied fairly and quickly. Safeguards need
to remain in place to protect those falsely convicted.
Perhaps if we were not so quick to look for excuses and more concerned about
defending life, the death penalty could be applied more fairly and
consistently. Perhaps if we made the death penalty automatic for a murder
conviction and allowed the jury (not a judge or prosecutor) to decide whether
or not to commute the sentence to life without parole, we would not have to
spend millions of dollars and decades of time to carry out this necessary,
albeit, ugly form of punishment.
(source: Guest Columnist, Bryan Dahlke is a local pastor and resident of
Perryton; Newark Advocate)
Death penalty debate is revived----As date for Oregon's first execution in 14
years, attention focuses on death row residents
Death row demographics
Number of Oregon inmates sentenced to death: 37
By gender: 36 men, 1 woman
By race: 29 white, 4 black, 3 Hispanic, 1 Native American
By county of conviction: Marion, 8; Lane, 6; Multnomah, 5; Douglas, 4;
Washington, 4; Clackamas, 3; Coos, 2; Columbia, 1; Deschutes, 1; Lincoln, 1;
Average age: 46
Oldest: Mark Pinnell, 63
Youngest: Jesse Fanus, 32
A rare Oregon execution, tentatively set to occur on Dec. 6 at the state
penitentiary in Salem, is reviving a long-dormant debate about the morality,
popularity and costs of state-sanctioned killing here.
It also is focusing fresh attention on the condemned killers who occupy
Oregon's death row.
Gary Haugen, 49, a twice-convicted murderer, will be put to death by lethal
injection, delivered at 7 p.m., inside a seldom-used execution room at the
penitentiary. Strapped down on a gurney, he will be killed by three drugs sent
coursing through his veins.
It will be the 1st Oregon execution in 14 years.
The execution originally was scheduled for Aug. 16. However, it was canceled in
June after the state Supreme Court found a Marion County judge did not do a
sufficient job of evaluating Haugen's mental competency before authorizing the
On Friday, the same judge again deemed Haugen mentally fit to drop his appeals,
putting the execution back on track.
Haugen has repeatedly asked to be killed, saying that he is fed up with the
justice system and life on death row. He reiterated his desire to die on Friday
when Circuit Judge Joseph Guimond asked him to explain why he was waiving his
"I can't go on," he said. "Because I'm ready, your honor, because I'm ready."
Anti-death penalty activists still hope to persuade Gov. John Kitzhaber to stop
the execution by commuting Haugen's death sentence to life in prison without
Kitzhaber has been monitoring the case and will make his position known soon,
said Tim Raphael, a spokesman for the governor.
For months, death penalty opponents have sent e-mails and letters to the
governor, imploring him to commute Haugen's sentence to life in prison without
Members of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, an advocacy group
leading the anti-execution campaign, say that state-sanctioned killing is
immoral, arbitrary, unfair and too costly.
"The system is not fair, and I think that's un-American," said Ron Steiner of
Salem, board chairman of the group. "My personal motivation is consistent with
what we believe as abolitionists, that we don't want any state-sanctioned
killing. If we can stop an execution from happening, that's a part of our
Steiner and other foes of capital punishment are mapping out long-term strategy
for a planned ballot measure that will ask Oregonians to abolish the death
"Absolutely, that's our mission," Steiner said. "We have two ways to get on the
ballot — initiative or (legislative) referral. We're looking at those options,
and we would hope that in the next couple of years it will happen."
Oregon is 1 of 34 states with the death penalty.
Efforts aimed at persuading Oregonians to dump the death penalty are doomed to
fail, according to proponents of capital punishment.
As they tell it, nothing has changed since 2002, when death penalty opponents
shut down a proposed ballot measure to abolish capital punishment after polling
showed it would not pass.
"Polls show that between 65 and 85 % of Oregonians support capital punishment,"
said Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis, a death penalty proponent
and author on the topic.
A quiet majority favoring the death penalty lacks the "fevered" intensity of
those who want to abolish it, Marquis said.
"The zealousness on one side is not matched by the zealousness on the other,"
he said. "I know there are some crazy people that show up at the pen when
there's an execution and wave signs saying 'roast in hell' and 'burn baby
burn,' stuff like that. But most people who are pro death penalty are somewhat
ambivalent about it because it's very serious business."
Volunteering to die
Amid dueling perspectives on the death penalty, Haugen's execution looms only
because he waived his appeals.
In volunteering to die, Haugen stands alone among the 37 convicted killers who
make up Oregon's death row roster.
Officials say the rest of the condemned have indicated they want to keep
pursuing their appeals as they remain cooped up on death row.
In all, condemned inmates have 10 avenues of appeal, which can stave off
State officials say Haugen can stop the execution process at virtually any time
if he changes his mind and decides to reactivate his appeals.
But Haugen has vowed to stay the course during interviews with the Statesman
Rather than languish on death row, he said he prefers to die with dignity,
"sacrificing" himself to protest what he described as "the arbitrary and
vindictive nature" of the death penalty.
"I've got 30 years in; I came to the penitentiary when I was 19," he said. "I'm
sick and tired of the system. I've had enough. I just refuse to participate."
Haugen is following in the footsteps of the last 2 executed inmates — serial
killer Douglas Wright in 1996 and Salem double killer Harry Moore in 1997. Both
abandoned their appeals.
Wright's execution ended a 34-year gap between executions in this state.
Kitzhaber allowed the executions of Wright and Moore to occur in 1996 and 1997
during his previous administration.
Marquis thinks Kitzhaber should take the same non-intervention stance with
"When Mr. Wright and Mr. Moore came up, his position was, 'Look, this is the
law, and I'm not going to interfere in it, absent of a tremendous injustice',"
he said. "Well, the only injustice that the opponents can point to (in Haugen's
case) is, they don't like the death penalty."
Steiner remains hopeful that Kitzhaber will halt the execution.
"Sure, until the last day, we would always have hope," he said.
Steiner expressed mixed feelings about advocating for action that runs counter
to Haugen's adamant desire to die.
"Does it bother me that I'm going against his wishes to die? In some sense," he
said. "But overwhelmingly my sentiment is to stop the killing."
Clashing views on execution
Darrin Jones, a 42-year-old information technology worker, served on the Marion
County jury that decided Haugen's fate.
As he sees it, halting the execution would undermine the legal process by
"taking the power away from the jury that said the man should die for what he
In 2007, the jury sentenced Haugen and a co-defendant, Jason Brumwell, to die
for the 2003 murder of David Polin, a fellow penitentiary inmate who suffered
84 stab wounds and a crushed skull.
Polin was killed because the two attackers mistakenly believed he snitched to
corrections officers about their use of drugs, prosecutors argued.
At the time of the slaying, Haugen was in prison for the 1981 beating and
bludgeoning death of Mary Archer, his former girlfriend's mother. Looking back
to the 13-week trial of Haugen and Brumwell, Jones described it as a draining,
"It was not a fun experience. There was a lot of gruesome evidence," he said.
"It was very difficult for me. I almost had a nervous breakdown in the middle
of the trial."
Jones said he found it "incredibly difficult" to vote for the death sentence,
but he has no regrets about doing so. Nor does he have any doubts about
"None whatsoever," he said.
Jones has closely followed Haugen's decision to drop his appeals and proceed
with the execution. He has attended some of the hearings on the case in Marion
County Circuit Court.
The former juror said he was put off by Haugen's courtroom demeanor and his
outspoken criticism of the death penalty and the justice system.
"He was a very egotistical individual, very much a grandstander, so seeing him
doing this to draw attention to himself did not surprise me," Jones said.
Whatever Haugen's motivations for volunteering to die, Jones believes execution
is the fitting punishment for his crime.
"Certainly there are others that probably deserve to die ahead of him, but he
has chosen to take himself to the front of the line," he said. "Let him go."
Polin's widow, Clarinda Polin Perez, shares that sentiment.
"More than anything, I want to have some sort of finality," she said.
For closure, Polin said she wants to witness Haugen's execution.
"He was there to see my husband's last breath, so I will be there to see his
last breath," she said.
In contrast, Emily Plec, a professor of communications studies at Western
Oregon University, has urged Kitzhaber to spare Haugen's life and order a
moratorium on capital punishment in Oregon.
"I believe Gary is volunteering for execution because he cannot imagine
spending the rest of his life, much less his impending 50th birthday, on death
row," Plec wrote in a July letter to Kitzhaber.
Noting that she has visited Haugen several times, Plec added: "I have come to
care about Gary a great deal. He is a damaged, complicated person who
understands poetry, loves music, longs for loving and loyal relationships and
has a desire to help others. I am committed to helping him find just and
ethical ways to do this, if his life can be spared."
Plec closed her plea to the governor this way: "Finally, I love living in
Oregon and being an Oregonian but I am ashamed to be a citizen of a state that
murders convicts for political reasons. A moratorium is the only means that
will enable groups such as OADP to assess the people's will before the
execution of Gary Haugen. As a physician and our Governor, I hope you will take
this opportunity to practice your professional faith and allow Oregonians to
reconsider our values and priorities."
Death penalty divide
Oregon is 1 of 34 states that allows capital punishment.
Other states with the death penalty: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California,
Colorado, Connecticut, Deleware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas,
Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska,
Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South
Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and
States without the death penalty: Alaska, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine,
Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North
Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Execution tally nationwide
Since Oregon voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984, 2 men have been
In contrast to Oregon's record, Texas has executed 475 people since 1976, when
the U.S. Supreme Court declared capital punishment constitutional. Texas easily
ranks No. 1 in the country for executions since the benchmark ruling, followed
by Virginia, with 109; Oklahoma, 96; Florida, 69; Missouri, 68; and Alabama,
Dozens of death sentences reduced through court system
Death row has a revolving door.
Since Oregon voters reinstated the death penalty in 1984, dozens of death row
inmates have been handed reduced sentences through appeals, court rulings and
plea deals with prosecutors.
The long-running and costly legal machinations that come with capital
punishment cases often are decried by death penalty proponents and opponents,
but for very different reasons.
Proponents say drawn-out appeals effectively nullify capital punishment by
stalling executions indefinitely. They also complain about cases in which legal
technicalities have unlocked death row's door for killers sentenced to die by
Opponents assert that capital punishment should be abolished, in part, because
trials and appeals cost untold millions every year.
It would be far cheaper to lock up the condemned for life, generating cost
savings that could help combat crime, drug addiction and other social ills,
Amid the clashing debate, this much is certain: Contrary to its image as the
last stop for the condemned, death row often functions as a temporary warehouse
because of court rulings.
In the 1990s, death row rosters were reshuffled in Oregon and across the
country in the wake of a 1989 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Penry v. Texas. The
high court ruled that death penalty juries must consider mitigating
circumstances, if any exist, before passing a death sentence. Because of that
ruling, at least 16 Oregon death penalty cases were sent back to county circuit
courts for resentencing hearings. In many cases, prosecutors cut deals that
resulted in life sentences for the resentenced inmates — plea bargains aimed at
saving money and sparing victims' families from reliving their anguish.
3 killers initially sentenced to die for Salem-area slayings — Stephen Farrar,
Ronald Moen and Michael Tucker — wound up with life sentences in the wake of
the flurry of resentencing cases triggered by the Penry ruling.
Another former death row inmate, Jeffrey Wagner, escaped from the penitentiary
after he was resentenced to life in prison, with a 30-year minimum, in a
In 1992, Wagner escaped from the maximum-security prison by hiding in the back
of a sawdust truck that carried him outside. Wagner later walked to a north
Salem adult bookstore on Portland Road NE, where he posed as an FBI agent
conducting a sting. The store owner got into a tussle with Wagner, slipped away
and called police. The escapee soon was recaptured and returned to prison.
While dozens of Oregon killers have exited death row during recent history,
only one has been set free.
Scott Harberts got out of prison a decade ago after the Oregon Supreme Court
vacated his conviction on grounds that his constitutional right to a speedy
trial had been violated.
Harberts previously had been sentenced to death in Clackamas County for the
July 1989 rape and beating death of 2-year-old Kristina Hornych.
After the Supreme Court set aside his conviction, prosecutors accused Harberts
of sexually abusing three of Hornych's relatives in the 1980s. Harberts was
acquitted of all but one count. After serving his time for the sole conviction,
he walked out of prison in 2001.
Oregon is far from alone when it comes to shuffling inmates off death row.
"Nationally, the most comprehensive study of death penalty appeals found that
2/3 of death sentences were overturned, and upon reconsideration over 80 %
received an outcome of less than death," states a report issued this year by
the Washington, D.C.-based Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes
The report concludes that capital punishment "is a broken and unreliable
system, compounded by wide disparities between states.
"In some states most death sentences are overturned and almost no one is
executed, but in others, like Texas and Virginia, where reversals are rare,
over 575 people have been executed since 1976, almost half of the national
Anti-death penalty activists say the biggest risk of capital punishment —
putting to death an innocent person — has been underscored by numerous cases in
which people sentenced to die were exonerated while waiting to be executed.
"We're all fallible. We make mistakes, but we shouldn't be making mistakes when
it comes to people's lives," Illinois lawmaker Karen Yarbrough said during a
visit to the Oregon Capitol during the 2011 legislative session.
Leaders of Oregon's anti-death penalty movement arranged for Yarbrough's visit
after she championed legislation this year to repeal the death penalty in
Since 1973, 138 people have been exonerated and freed from death row
nationally, according to a 2009 report by the Death Penalty Information Center.
"In many of these cases, the appeals process was critical in overturning an
unfair conviction and allowing a new trial at which the defendant was
acquitted," the report says. "In other cases, even the appeals failed to find
evidence of innocence or a constitutional flaw in the process that led to
conviction, but the process at least allowed for the passage of time, during
which exonerating DNA evidence was discovered and tested, or the person
actually responsible for the crime was identified."
Unlike some states, Oregon doesn't have any history of pinning the death
penalty on innocent people, said Joshua Marquis, the district attorney of
Clatsop County, who has prosecuted capital cases and authored a book about the
Oregonians strongly favor capital punishment as the appropriate punishment in
selective cases, Marquis said.
"It is rarely asked for, it is rarely used, and it is rarely imposed," he said.
Legal safeguards associated with the death penalty don't come cheap, but they
are necessary to ensure the integrity of the system, Marquis said.
"The reason the death penalty is so expensive, both in Oregon and the United
States, and not inappropriately, is to protect the rights of the defendant," he
said. "You could save money but the only way to save money is by cutting down
on the due process."
(source for both: Statesman Journal)
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