Brown to stay death penalty ban if elected

PORTLAND — If elected in November, Gov. Kate Brown plans to maintain a moratorium on the death penalty in Oregon.

Spokesman Bryan Hockaday told The Oregonian Monday that Brown has made clear her personal opposition to capital punishment and her support of the current moratorium.

Former Gov. John Kitzhaber announced the moratorium two weeks before the scheduled 2011 execution of Gary Haugen. After Brown took over the office in February 2015, she said she would continue the halt to executions until further study.

Hockaday said the governor directed her general counsel to review the policy and practical implications of the state’s capital punishment law. He said Brown will continue the moratorium because “serious concerns remain about the constitutionality and workability of the law.”

Reasons for her decision include the “uncertainty of Oregon’s ability to acquire the necessary execution drugs required by statute,” Hockaday said in an email. “Looking nationally, America is on the verge of a sea change both by legislation and, more profoundly, through court decisions. The past few years have already seen a major shift in the landscape on capital punishment law, and Gov. Brown expects more changes are on the horizon.”

Oregon voters approved the death penalty in 1984, and the state and U.S. Supreme Courts have upheld its legality repeatedly.

Oregon’s death row has 34 prisoners.

Josh Marquis, the Clatsop County district attorney and an outspoken supporter of the death penalty, said after hearing the news that if Brown really believes the death penalty is so wrong, then “she should have the guts to commute all those sentences.”

Clatsop County is going through its first death penalty trial in 15 years with Randy Roden accused of killing his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter.

Last year Haugen received an execution date for late January 2017. His attorney, Jeff Ellis, says Haugen has chosen to appeal the date, claiming the state took too long to issue the date after the expiration of a previous death warrant. He was convicted of aggravated murder in a 2004 prison death.

Haugen told The Oregonian in late September he was frustrated.

“They want to have the death penalty, but they don’t want to kill anybody,” he said.

Governors in several states, including Washington, Colorado and Pennsylvania, have also instituted moratoriums.