http://www.statesmanjournal.com/article/20111122/NEWS/111220327/Execution-given-go-ahead-by-split-court?odyssey=nav%7CheadExecution given go-ahead by split court
Petition for new competency hearing denied
12:01 AM, Nov. 22, 2011
A divided Oregon Supreme Court issued a decision Monday that green lights the Dec. 6 execution of twice-convicted murderer Gary Haugen.
By a 4-3 decision, the court rejected a petition filed by an anti-death penalty legal center seeking a new mental competency hearing for the condemned inmate.
Barring intervention by Gov. John Kitzhaber, who has the power to stop the execution or a decision by Haugen to call it off and reactivate his appeals, Oregon's first execution in 14 years is on track to occur at 7 p.m. Dec. 6 at the state penitentiary in Salem.
Haugen, 49, voluntarily dropped his appeals. He has repeatedly stated his preference to die rather than languish on Oregon's death row, which houses 37 condemned killers. He also has said he waived his appeals to protest the legal system and "the arbitrary and vindictive nature of the death penalty."
The state Supreme Court majority concluded that no legal errors were committed by Marion County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Guimond, who found Haugen mentally competent to drop his appeals and legally sane to be executed.
The court majority also determined that Guimond complied with the terms of an earlier Supreme Court order that set forth marching orders for the judge to follow in assessing Haugen's competency.
"Our conclusion that Judge Guimond complied with the writ, of course, does not make this case any less fraught or sobering," says the court's majority opinion. "We agree with the dissenting opinions that, as this court and the United States Supreme Court have said, 'death is different.' And we agree that the procedures established by the legislature that can lead to an execution must be followed scrupulously."
The majority opinion adds, "We share the dissenters' premise that every death penalty case raises the most profound issues of morality and social justice. The record before us, however, demonstrates no legal error in Judge Guimond's conduct of the proceedings to determine Haugen's competence, nor any failure on his part to comply with the terms of our writ."
However, Chief Justice Paul DeMuniz, writing in a dissenting opinion, agreed with the petition's core complaint — that Guimond "ignored" potential evidence that cast doubt on Haugen's competency.
DeMuniz noted that Guimond excluded from consideration an affidavit issued by Portland neuropsychologist Muriel Lezak, who visited Haugen and asserted that he suffers from delusions and cognitive problems.
"The trial court was entitled to give Dr. Lezak's testimony and her opinions as much or as little weight as they deserved, and it was certainly within the trial court's authority to allow Haugen to discharge his lawyers after that evidence was taken," the chief justice wrote. "The trial court, however, was not authorized to simply ignore evidence relevant to Haugen's competence to be executed, whether that was Haugen's wish or not."
DeMuniz also took the court majority to task, writing: "Haugen has repeatedly expressed his desire to be executed, and he may well be legally competent to receive that penalty for his horrible crimes. His desire to be put to death, however, does not excuse this court's failure to require strict adherence to the legislature's mandated procedures in this, and every other, death penalty proceeding."
Jeff Ellis, head of the Oregon Capital Resource Center, which filed the petition asking the high court to order a new competency hearing for Haugen, said he was "very disappointed" by the majority decision.
"I remain profoundly concerned that Mr. Haugen was found competent to be executed after a hearing where evidence of his incompetence was excluded and not considered by the court," Ellis wrote in an e-mail to the Statesman Journal. "The Constitution requires more. It requires that a judge hear and consider all of the relevant evidence.
"The Oregon Supreme Court's majority decision repeated this error by focusing too closely at the language of its earlier writ and not close enough at the requirements of the constitution."
Monday's 4-3 Supreme Court decision came on the heels of Friday's signing of Haugen's death warrant by Guimond.agustafs@StatesmanJournal.com
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Go to StatesmanJournal.com/deathrow to read the majority opinion issued Monday by the Oregon Supreme
Court and two dissenting opinions. The court voted 4-3 to reject a petition seeking a new competency hearing for condemned inmate Gary Haugen.
Story so far
Gary Haugen was sentenced to die in 2007 for killing a fellow inmate at the Oregon State Penitentiary in 2003. At the time, he was serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole for fatally beating the mother of his ex-girlfriend in 1981 in Portland.
Haugen, 49, has dropped his legal challenges and has said repeatedly that he wants to be put to death.
In May, Marion County Circuit Judge Joseph Guimond allowed the death row inmate to waive his appeals and set an Aug. 16 execution date. But the two attorneys representing Haugen at the time argued that he was not mentally competent, citing an opinion given by Portland neuropsychologist Muriel Lezak, who visited Haugen and deemed him delusional.
In late June, the state Supreme Court stepped in, ordering Guimond to cancel the execution, schedule a full psychological evaluation of Haugen and conduct a new competency hearing.
The new competency hearing was held Sept. 27. Clinical psychologist Richard Hulteng, who met with Haugen for 10 hours over two days, outlined his evaluation of Haugen and testified that he is not mentally ill or delusional.
Guimond ruled Oct. 7 that Haugen was mentally fit to waive his legal appeals and legally sane to be executed, as required by law. Guimond announced a tentative Dec. 6 execution date and said he expected to sign a death warrant in the near future. As of Friday, the judge had not signed the death warrant.
An anti-death penalty lawyer with the Oregon Capital Resource Center filed a petition Oct. 17 with the Supreme Court, asking the high court to order another competency hearing and block Guimond from signing Haugen's death warrant.
The petition claimed that the competency hearing held in September was flawed because Guimond relied on Hulteng's evaluation of the inmate and excluded Lezak's opinion.
In response to the OCRC petition, Haugen's current lawyers and attorneys for the state Department of Justice separately submitted legal briefs to the Supreme Court defending the previous mental competency evaluation and hearing.
Four anti-death penalty groups submitted a separate petition Nov. 7 to Gov. John Kitzhaber asking him to indefinitely delay the execution, pending a comprehensive study of the death penalty system in Oregon. Kitzhaber does not intend to publicly comment on the petition until the court process has run its course, according to a spokesman in his office.
Friday, prison officials briefed reporters on preparations for the looming Dec. 6 execution and led them on a tour of the execution room at the Oregon State Penitentiary.
Monday, a 4-3 decision by the state Supreme Court green lighted Haugen's execution by denying the OCRC's request for a new competency hearing.http://www.scribd.com/doc/73422668/Oregon-Supreme-Court-Haugen-Opinion