When Gov. Kitzhaber decided to stop executions, his leadership involved presenting 11 points, none of which explained his reasoning for his action.
Gov. Kitzhaber failed to tell us why the death penalty was "morally wrong" and "unjust", the only claims from his statement (1) that might explain his personal decision to quash his official responsibility and his violation of the a public trust, whereby he committed "to uphold the law and could not and would not intervene" in executions.
None of his other "reasons" justify his moratorium on executions, either (1).
After wading through the chaff, the governor's statement is, really, just this:
"I don't like the death penalty. I don't care what the victim survivors or the courts say. I am stopping executions because I think it morally wrong, although I won't tell you why."
To review, point by point:
1) Gov. Kitzhaber: " I do not believe that those (two prior) executions made us safer; . . .".
Reply: Governor, living murderers are infinitely more likely to harm and murder, again, than are executed murderers. This is an unchallenged truism, with the obvious example of Gary Haugen, who was sent to Oregon prison for one murder and then murdered, again, in prison. Astounding that the governor did not see both the irony and the fallacy of his position, with that one example, staring the governor in the face - this spared repeat murderer, now spared, again.
In, at least three ways, the death penalty and executions protect innocents to a higher degree than life imprisonment; Enhanced incapacitation, as discussed above; enhanced due process, which provides greater protections for actually innocent defendants and enhanced deterrence, as all prospects of sanction deter some and life is much preferred over death, not only by criminals and potential criminals, but by all of us (2).
2) Gov. Kitzhaber: " . . . certainly (executions) did not make us nobler as a society."
Reply: Support for the death penalty is based in justice, the same foundation of support for all legal sanctions. Is there a more noble goal than justice? Unlikely.
3) Gov. Kitzhaber: ".. . I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong."
Reply: The governor never tells us why execution is morally wrong, when that is the sole reason he gives for his decision. Everything else is just claptrap. He did not have enough respect for the murder victims, their survivors, all of those who worked so hard on the cases or for the citizens of Oregon, to explain his moral reasoning. This blatant omission reeks of both contempt and self importance.
4) Gov. Kitzhaber: "The families and friends of victims deserve certainty that justice will be carried out on behalf of the loved ones who have been taken from them in such a cruel fashion."
Reply: The governor's decision improves neither justice nor certainty, but does enhance the cruelty to the victim survivors, who have already suffered way too much.
5) Gov. Kitzhaber: "But the nature of their crimes was not different from other murderers, some of whom are sentenced to death but never executed and others who are sentenced to life in prison." "It is not applied equally to all."
Reply: Governor, that is the case with all crimes and all punishments, as you and all Oregon citizens know. Rape can bring probation or a life sentence, just as all similar crimes may result in vastly different sanctions.
6) Gov. Kitzhaber: "Oregonians have a fundamental belief in fairness and justice – in swift and certain justice. The death penalty as practiced in Oregon is neither fair nor just; and it is not swift or certain."
Reply: The governor offers no reason why the death penalty is unjust and by his decision, he knowingly made justice less swift and less certain in death penalty cases. His position is that because we cannot have justice in every case, we must do away with justice in all cases. Almost every argument that the governor uses against the death penalty he could just as easily have used against life imprisonment or other sanctions.
7) Gov. Kitzhaber: "The only factor that determines whether someone sentenced to death in Oregon is actually executed is that they volunteer. The hard truth is that in the 27 years since Oregonians reinstated the death penalty, it has only been carried out on two volunteers who waived their rights to appeal."
Reply: All criminals have the opportunity to waive their appeals and to serve their sentence without further legal challenge. This is to the common good of both Oregon citizens and of justice. It saves time and financial resources, a benefit to all jurisdictions, and represents an acceptance of a just sanction by the criminal. Will the governor seek a law prohibiting all convicted criminals from waiving their appeals? It's another ridiculous lack of reasoning by the governor.
With Oregon's death penalty, as the governor well knows, the non stop appeals process is the fault of leadership, the legislators, the governor and the judges that allow perversions of the law for never ending appeals.
Instead of supporting that perversion, even more, as the governor, now , does, he could have stated that the will of the people and the jurors should be carried out and that in the next session those perversions will be ended.
8) Gov. Kitzhaber states, along with many others, that the Oregon death penalty protocol is broken.
Reply: Obviously, an execution moratorium will not help that, but only enhances what is already broken. Virginia executes in 7.1 years and has executed nearly 72% of those sentenced to death row (3).
Does the governor care? Of course not. It doesn't matter what real or imagined problems may exist or are remedied, because the governor would oppose execution, under any circumstance, because he is morally opposed. As the governor couldn't or wouldn't explain his moral opposition, he uses a lot of filler, to support his decision, even though non of it was the reason for his decision - a crass political speech, which simply makes things worse, with added insult to victims and their survivors.
9) The governor is dead wrong on why other states got rid of the death penalty.
Illinois' repeal occurred, only, because anti death penalty politicians snuck in quick legislation, during the lame duck session, so that those politicians, voted out of office, could stick a finger in the eyes of the constituents who had rejected them. It was known that the newly elected legislators would have made a death penalty repeal impossible. The majority of Illinois citizens still supported the death penalty.
New Mexico only repealed the death penalty because of the larger number of anti death penalty legislators voted in, on the coattails of Obama, as connfirmed by the main sponsor of the legislation.
None of the arguments against the death penalty, all of which were rebutted, caused the repeal. The majority of New Mexican's still support the death penalty.
New Jersey's death penalty commission, appointed by the anti death penalty governor, was stacked with 13 anti death penalty folks and, maybe, two proponents. Cost had nothing to do with their decision, as they stated in their report. It was only the presence of an anti death penalty governor and an anti death penalty legislature that made the repeal succeed, at a time when death penalty support was 78%.
10) Gov. Kitzhaber: " . . . the policy of this state on capital punishment is not mine alone to decide. It is a matter for all Oregonians to decide."
Reply: Exactly. Oregonians have decided on this and the governor simply made an individual, personal decisions, as opposed to his leadership commitment. No US citizen knowingly votes for leadership who make decisions based only upon personal feelings - feelings which contradict democratic process, as well as the promise of the governor, himself.
Yet, that is what Gov. Kitzhaber has, nobly, provided? - Even though Gov. Kitzhaber stated: I was "' 'sworn to uphold the law and could not and would not intervene.', when it came to the execution of Douglas Franklin Wright in 1996." (4).
11) At his news conference, the Governor cited his physicians requirement "to do not harm".
Reply: There is no such requirement, in regard to the death penalty. Please review:
(1) Gov. Kitzhaber's 11/22/2011 "Statement on Capital Punishment"
(2) a) The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives
c) LIFE: MUCH PREFERRED OVER EXECUTION
99.7% of murderers tell us "Give me life, not execution"
(3) "Path to execution swifter, more certain in Va", 12/4/2011, Richmond-Times Dispatch
(4) "Death penalty: Respecting the will of voters ", 12/3/2011, The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2011/12/death_penality_respecting_the.html
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