I join Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and other groups around the country in applauding the decision of Governor John Kitzhaber to halt the scheduled execution of Gary Haugen (scheduled for December 6 – the last execution scheduled for this year). Governor Kitzhaber also called for a full examination of the Oregon death penalty. Reflecting on this decision, the OADP said:
Governor Kitzhaber has shown great leadership with this announcement.
“It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach,” Governor Kitzhaber, a Democrat elected last fall, said in a news conference in Salem on Tuesday afternoon. “I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer; and I will not allow further executions while I am governor.”
One of the predecessor denominations of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) first went on the record against capital punishment in 1959:
. . . the 171st General Assembly, “believing that capital punishment cannot be condoned by an interpretation of the Bible based upon the revelation of God’s love in Jesus Christ,” called on Christians to “seek the redemption of evil doers and not their death” and noted that “the use of the death penalty tends to brutalize the society that condones it.”
As Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty states:
It is our contention that when all the facts are known, it is difficult to support a death penalty. It is a failed public policy, extremely expensive, taking valuable resources from other programs that do deter violent crime. In these modern times, when we have the ability to keep violent criminals safely away from the general public, an option like life without parole makes more sense.
I grieve for Mary Archer and all who love her. Haugen was convicted of raping and beating Mary Archer to death in 1981. I grieve for David Polin and all who love him. Haugen was convicted of killing David Polin, an inmate at the Oregon State Penitentiary, in 2003. No questions of his guilt are raised and Haugen has asked to waive his legal rights and be executed.
Still, as I have written before:
I believe the death penalty is wrong. It dehumanizes our society. Repaying violence with violence does not get us anywhere; killing to demonstrate that killing is wrong makes no sense to me. It cuts off any possibility for reform or restoration. My opposition is to the state killing. It does not depend – it cannot depend on the person subject to execution.
I have prayed for the families and friends of Mary Archer and David Polin. I pray for Gary Haugen.
I have written a thank-you letter to Governor Kitzhaber.
I pray for other leaders who are in a position to make decisions and set policy about life and death.
See you along the Trail.