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Legally Competent


A recent Oregon Supreme Court ruling may have extended condemned murderer Gary Haugen’s life. This was welcome news to everyone on Haugen’s defense team, but not by Haugen himself. The ruling came after the Oregon Capitol Resource center, an anti-death penalty advocacy group, petitioned on Haugen’s behalf (but against his wishes).

Since 2008, Haugen has been writing letters to the Oregon Supreme Court seeking to drop any appeals he may have, in order to proceed with his execution. Recently, he told the Statesman Journal,

“I’m just so nauseated with the system that I refuse to participate in this anymore.”

Gary Haugen was convicted of murdering his girlfriend’s mother when he was 19, and has spent the past 30 years behind bars. After a second conviction for killing a fellow inmate, Haugen was sent to death row, where he has been for seven years.

In May, Marion County Judge Joesph Guimond asked Haugen a series of questions, deemed him competent, allowed him to waive any future appeals and dismiss his attorneys. With the drop of his gavel, Judge Guidmond gave Haugen what he said he wanted: a death warrant (pdf). A month later, the Oregon Supreme Court called that warrant into question. The court ruled that Judge Guimond did not go far enough in determining if Haugen was mentally competent enough to decide to forgo legal council. Judge Guidmond has until July 7th to either defend his original ruling or conduct another competency trial for Haugen.

What’s the best measure of legal competence?

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