Saying that capital punishment is "morally wrong," Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber effectively banned the death penalty in his state, two weeks before the state was set to execute its first inmate in 14 years.
Oregon has a long and turbulent history with capital punishment. Our state constitution
originally had no provision for the death penalty. Enacted by statute in 1864, the death penalty was repealed by voters in 1914, restored in 1920, outlawed again by voters in 1964, re-enacted in 1978, deemed unconstitutional by the Oregon Supreme Court in 1981 and again reinstated in 1984.
It has been carried out just twice in last 49 years in Oregon. Both were during my first administration as Governor, one in 1996 and the other in 1997. I allowed those sentences to be carried out despite my personal opposition to the death penalty. I was torn between my personal convictions about the morality of capital punishment and my oath to uphold the Oregon constitution.
They were the most agonizing and difficult decisions I have made as Governor and I have
revisited and questioned them over and over again during the past 14 years. I do not believe that those executions made us safer; and certainly they did not make us nobler as a society. And I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong.
The state had been execute via lethal injection twice-convicted murderer Gary Haugen who had essentially volunteered to be executed partly to show how some people who are convicted of the same crime are often handed different sentences.
In related news, one governor who doesn't view executions as "the most agonizing and difficult decisions I have made as Governor": Rick Perry.