Gary Haugen describes life on death row He slams governor for granting reprieve 1:03 AM, Dec. 30, 2011
Oregon's best-known death row inmate is mired in a familiar rut as he awaits a new year.
Gary Haugen says each day at the Oregon State Penitentiary plays out in repetitive fashion, like a darker version of the movie "Groundhog Day."
He pins much of the blame for his fate on Gov. John Kitzhaber who canceled his scheduled Dec. 6 execution.
"I woke up on the seventh (of December) and I just felt like ---- man," the 49-year-old inmate said in a recent interview with the Statesman Journal, "this is surreal. This is like 'Groundhog Day,' man. I'm Bill Murray, and he's God."
"Groundhog Day" is a 1993 movie starring Bill Murray as a cynical TV weatherman who, while covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pa., finds himself repeating the same day over and over again.
The movie is a light-hearted fantasy, capped by a happy ending.
For Haugen, death row is a grim reality, with no end in sight. He is locked down in a single cell for nearly 23 hours a day.
Haugen doesn't know how long he will languish on "the row."
"I waived all my appeals, so I'm just stuck in limbo," he said.
The twice-convicted killer continues to criticize Kitzhaber for foiling his bid to die by lethal injection.
Kitzhaber did not commute Haugen's death sentence. He imposed what he called a temporary reprieve.
Haugen rips Kitzhaber for subverting the will of Oregon voters, who reinstated capital punishment in 1984, and for taking away his right to relinquish his appeals and be executed.
"If you can't do the will of the people, then get out of the way," he said, referring to Kitzhaber.
Haugen has been on death row since 2007 for the 2003 fatal beating and stabbing of inmate David Polin. He had been serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole for the 1981 beating death of his ex-girlfriend's mother, Mary Archer, of Portland.
The Oregon Supreme Court upheld Haugen's conviction and death sentence in November 2010. Haugen then wrote a series of letters to court officials expressing his frustration about the justice system and stating his desire to waive his future appeals and proceed with his execution.
n a series of interviews with the Statesman Journal last summer, Haugen spelled out his reasons for abandoning his appeals, saying he was fed up with the legal system and "the arbitrary and vindictive nature of the death penalty."
"I'm just so nauseated with the system that I refuse to participate in this anymore," he said in June. "Believe me, it's not an easy call by any means, but it's one I'm willing to make."
Talking about his topsy-turvy case this month, Haugen again cited his contempt for the legal system as the primary motivation for dropping his appeals and seeking to be put to death. He downplayed death row's extreme isolation and dreary routines as factors.
"Look, I never said I couldn't clock the time," he said. "I just said, 'I'm sick and tired of participating under this system.' "
He added: "I've been doing this (incarceration) for 30 years. I can do this until stars burn out. That's all I know. But I just said, 'I choose not to.' "
Haugen's execution originally was scheduled for Aug. 16. However, the state Supreme Court stepped in last summer and ordered a Marion County judge to cancel the execution after Haugen's attorneys at the time argued that he was mentally incompetent.
Haugen subsequently was found competent to drop his appeals, putting the Dec. 6 execution on track.
In stopping what would have been Oregon's first execution in 14 years, Kitzhaber said at a Nov. 22 news conference that he has long regretted allowing two executions to go forward, in 1996 and 1997, during his first term as governor.
Asserting that Oregon's death penalty system is "broken" and "a perversion of justice," Kitzhaber declared that he would allow no executions during the remainder of his current term.
The Democratic governor called for a statewide debate about capital punishment, and he vowed to ask lawmakers to "bring potential reforms before the 2013 Legislature."
Haugen slams Kitzhaber for waiting until two weeks before the scheduled execution to act on his conscience and for putting off potential capital punishment reforms until 2013.
"If you're saying the system is broken, how are you going to allow individuals to sit back and litigate in a broken system?" he asked, referring to the 36 other Oregon inmates on death row who are pursuing appeals.
"Do I agree with the moratorium? Sure I do. But I think that how he's going about what he's doing is irresponsible. It absolutely should make people sit back and look at him and say, 'Huh? Maybe we should question his competency.' "
agustafs@StatesmanJournal.com, (503) 399-6709, or follow at twitter.com/agustafs1
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