What He's Done Kitzhaber not only blocked the execution of a convicted double-murderer scheduled for lethal injection, he halted all executions in the state. "It is time for Oregon to consider a different approach," he said at an emotional news conference announcing the moratorium in November. "I refuse to be a part of this compromised and inequitable system any longer." Oregon's death penalty is unevenly applied – the same crime has earned some prisoners a death sentence, others life in prison – and inmates can languish on death row for more than 20 years unless they volunteer to be executed. Kitzhaber, who supports life without parole as an alternative to capital punishment, remains haunted by two executions he allowed to proceed. "I do not believe that those executions made us safer," he says now. "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."
Admirers Say "The governor took courageous and thoughtful action," says Richard Dieter, who directs the Death Penalty Information Center. "He's the rare politician who follows his conscience."
Enemies Say "He's a paper cowboy," complained Gary Haugen, the double-murderer who was pushing to be executed in December as a way of protesting the death penalty. "He couldn't pull the trigger."
Gives Us Pause Despite his belief that capital punishment is "morally wrong," Kitzhaber chose not to commute the sentences of Oregon's death-row inmates.