Death penalty opponents urge review of lethal injection procedure

On Tuesday, Governor John Kitzhaber received a letter from opponents of the death penalty which urged him to put the execution of Gary Haugen, an Oregon man convicted of murder, on hold indefinitely until a review of the death penalty system in Oregon can be conducted. In the letter, the state's lethal injection procedure was criticized for its poor design.

The critics of the lethal injection procedure-which include the Oregon Capital Resource Center, Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, the ACLU of Oregon and Amnesty International USA-pointed out that Oregon currently uses three drugs rather than one, has inadequately detailed procedures and no medically trained staff. According to opponents of the procedure, there is too much room for the possibility of a "botched execution" for the system to remain in place as it is.

Haugen, who has been convicted of murdered twice, is set for execution on December 6, though the state Supreme Court is currently considering a request to halt the execution and order a mental competency hearing on his behalf.

In its letter to the governor, the group noted the millions of dollars spent by the state in capital punishment case and appeals, the public discomfort with the death penalty, and the racial and financial factors involved in the execution. The letter also mentioned the fact that sixteen states-four in the last seven years-have abolished or never put in place a death penalty.

Oregon law allows governors to grant pardons, reprieves, and commutations for convicted criminals when they deem it appropriate. Sources said that Kitzhaber is a physician who is himself opposed to the death penalty, though he has allowed the procedure to remain in place.

Oregon's protocol of using several different drugs in the lethal injection procedure has been criticized heavily since Washington state switched to a one-drug protocol in 2010. Advocates of the one drug method say it leaves less chance for error. Other states have taken a similar approach as a result of problems encountered in using multiple drugs.


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