Thursday, November 24, 2011

Pardon the turkey?

Here I go again with an opinion that displeases one-third of the people, but I am cheering Oregon Governor Kitzhaber's nuanced decision to punt ahead Oregon's death penalty to either the legislature or the next governor.

If you read the article, you'll know more details; but his decision not to give a man, next in line to be executed, clemency but also not to allow his exectution while he is governor is excellent and done for the right reasons. I cheer it even when I am one of those, who 27 years ago voted to enact a possible death penalty for certain crimes.

I am not at all sure I'd do the same thing if Oregon again votes on the issue. My courtroom experience this summer, serving on a felony jury trial, even more convinced me of the difficulty of getting truly fair jury trials. So much evidence is not admissible or never gathered leaving many juries with a lot of frustration as they must make a decision that takes into account the victim, the evidence, and under the constraints of the law which might be legalese more than what appears to be practical sense. The death penalty has been way too frequently used with the poor and minorities letting the rich and whites off.

I am proud of my governor and glad we donated to his being elected-- well re-elected as he had been our governor for 8 years then had to give it up as we don't enable governors to run more than 8 years consecutively. Another democrat took it over for the next 8 years, and Kitzhaber was back running in 2010 to my pleasure. I am even more pleased now.

Yes, I don't mind the death penalty being used when the crime is with no doubt, the convicted is sane, the crime particularly heinous, was plotted out, and the miscreant is not someone who likely will ever be turned from violence (no matter how many times he/she goes to the religious altar of fogiveness). The problem is it doesn't work out that way too often.

Oregon evidently based their law on Texas's which enables too many death penalties when the basic criteria (for me) would not be met. In the last few years we have heard of executions other places of the mentally ill as well as where there really was not positive proof but a jury, sometimes for bigoted reasons, decreed it anyway.  I don't want to be part of a culture that is cheering at hangings.

On our way to the family Thanksgiving, we listened to talk radio (as usual, all you can get when away from big cities are right wing talkers). The callers were, not surprisingly rabid over this decision. He was standing in the way of the voters.

Well times change and something this important should be reevaluated once in awhile. That conversation can now be had. I think a lot of us also didn't realize that the Supreme Court would decree innocence wasn't a factor in a death penalty verdict. As long as the trial was fair, the fact that an innocent person was about to be executed is okay. Say what!!!!

The right wing host and his callers gave off with the old bromide that a death penalty saves lives because it's a deterrent. That ignores the actual facts but then since when did the right ever let facts such as that murders are actually higher in states with a death penalty [Statistics for states without death penalty and consistently lower murder rates].

Now my original reason for voting for it was one of Oregon's more violent murderers had gotten out on parole and went right out and raped and murdered again. That though can be fixed by penalties that truly mean life in prison with no chance for parole or probation.

The other thing that offends me about this particular murder sentence is that Haugen was in prison for another murder before the death penalty (within the family as so many are) where he and another prisoner murdered (heinously) another inmate with weapons they had evidently forged or had smuggled to them. So that means our prison  system was partly responsible for his ability to do what he did, which could have been a crime of passion without forethought (or maybe not) but with weapons the state, which is supposed to run these prisons, right, evidently enabled. So who was most guilty for what happened?

I don't want someone like Haugen, with obviously an uncontrollable and violent temper, ever out of prison. Life in prison does it for me though.

What has infuriated the right, to not see this execution take place December 6, is they say Kitzhaber thwarted the will of the people. Except this was last voted on 27 years ago. Maybe Oregonians will again vote for it or maybe not. We will likely have that chance and can reevaluate what the law actually does.

While we are reconsidering all of this, how about cleaning up the prison system  because the idea that prisoners have sharpened screwdrivers and shivs seems all wrong to me. Some people aren't there with a life sentence.  It'd be nice that they survived doing their time.

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