SALEM, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon death row inmate who has agreed to be executed is arguing that the governor has no legal basis to give him a reprieve.
In a letter released Tuesday, an attorney for death row inmate Gary Haugen said Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber's indefinite postponement of Haugen's execution fails to meet the legal basis for a reprieve.
A reprieve must be accepted by the recipient, and Haugen argues that a lawyer who accepted the reprieve on his behalf did so without his consent, making it "legally ineffective and void."
Haugen's attorney called Kitzhaber's reprieve a way to skirt Oregon law, The Oregonian reported.
"Mr. Haugen hereby rejects the purported reprieve you have offered him," attorney Harrison Latto wrote. "An act of this importance cannot be legally accomplished by a lawyer unless he acts according to the express instructions of his client."
Haugen was serving a life sentence for the 1981 killing of his ex-girlfriend's mother, Mary Archer, when he killed another inmate in prison and was sentenced to death. He waived his appeals and agreed to be executed, and he called the governor a coward for canceling the execution late last year.
Kitzhaber said he won't oversee any more executions because he believes the state's death penalty scheme is unfair.
The state Supreme Court upheld Haugen's conviction and sentence in November 2010. The death-row inmate then wrote a series of letters to court officials calling the state's capital punishment system arbitrary and vindictive. He indicated he wanted to waive his further appeals and die in protest of the system.
That led his attorneys to question his competency. After psychological reviews, the high court voted by a 4-3 margin on Nov. 21 to allow his execution to proceed.
The next day, Kitzhaber canceled it. He called Oregon's death penalty system "a perversion of justice," saying the state only executes people who volunteer.
In the letter, Haugen argues that Kitzhaber fails to meet the legal standard for a reprieve, which is different from a pardon or commutation of a sentence. A reprieve, Haugen argues, is issued for a set period of time and is intended to allow an inmate to take some kind of action, such as filing an appeal.
Kitzhaber was also wrong, Haugen argues, because appeals are supposed to be directed at individual inmates for a specific reason, while Kitzhaber instead issued a blanket reprieve for all executions while he is in office.
"Your action, in contrast, is more in the nature of an attempted nullification of a particular Oregon law," according to the letter. "While you have every right, of course, to lead a campaign to repeal the death penalty in Oregon, Mr. Haugen should not be forced to serve as a pawn in that effort."
Information from: The Oregonian, http://www.oregonlive.com
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press