Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber can delay the lethal injection of a death-row inmate who wants to waive his appeals and speed his execution, the state's highest court ruled Thursday.
The Oregon Supreme Court said Kitzhaber did not overstep his power when he granted a reprieve delaying the death sentence of Gary Haugen, who was convicted of two murders.
Kitzhaber opposes the death penalty and intervened weeks before Haugen was scheduled to be executed in 2011. The governor said he refused to allow an execution under a state death-penalty system he views as broken, vowing to block any execution during his term in office.
Haugen challenged Kitzhaber's clemency, saying the reprieve was invalid because Haugen refused to accept it. He also argued that it wasn't actually a reprieve but rather an illegal attempt by the governor to nullify a law he didn't like.
The governor argued that his clemency power is absolute, and nobody - certainly not an inmate on death row - can prevent him from doing what he believes to be in the state's best interest.