Judge orders Oregon's first execution in 14 years - KPTV - FOX 12

Judge orders Oregon's first execution in 14 years

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Gary Haugen will spend the last 48 hours of his life in a small cell just a few steps from the gurney where he'll be executed for fatally stabbing and bludgeoning a fellow inmate.

Shortly after dusk, eight corrections officers will take him on the 12-foot journey to an execution chamber that hasn't been used in more than a decade. They'll stretch leather straps across his arms, legs and chest before medical professionals insert IV catheters to carry lethal doses of medication into each wrist.

A Marion County Circuit Court judge signed a death warrant Friday ordering Oregon's first execution in 14 years. Haugen is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Dec. 6. The 49-year-old inmate has disregarded advice from his lawyers and waived his remaining appeals.

Department of Corrections officials briefed reporters Friday on the lethal injection process and their year-long preparations for Oregon's first execution in 14 years.

"Carrying out the execution is a serious and solemn matter," said Mike Gower, assistant director of operations for the corrections department.

Corrections officials say they've been preparing for more than a year for Haugen's execution. Oregon State Penitentiary Superintendent Jeff Premo traveled to Texas and Oklahoma to observe preparations and he oversaw two recent practice runs in Oregon.

Preparations have cost $42,000 so far, excluding legal costs, he said.

The final countdown to Haugen's execution begins two days before, when he'll be taken from death row to the death cell -- a 68-square-foot room with a metal door and bars within eyesight of the death chamber.

He'll sleep on a thin mattress atop a cement slab and use a stainless steel sink and toilet. High in a corner, there's a television behind a plastic casing. Two corrections officers will keep a round-the-clock death watch, logging everything Haugen does.

A mirror helps observers see the entire cell.

In the death cell, Haugen will have limited access to personal property and 24-hour access to a telephone, his lawyers and religious services. Other visitors must be approved by the superintendent.

At 2 p.m. on execution day, he'll be served his last meal. State execution rules say condemned inmates get a last meal from the prison cafeteria but the superintendent can make an exception.

"I've assured him if he makes a reasonable request, I'll make reasonable accommodations," Premo said.

At 5 p.m., execution witnesses will be briefed on the process and what they're about to see. Family and friends invited by Haugen are allowed to watch the execution from a viewing window with two-way glass. They can see him, he can see them.

Other witnesses -- including five journalists along with law-enforcement officials and members of the victim's family -- will watch through one-way glass.

After 6 p.m., Haugen will leave the death cell dressed in standard blue-denim prison clothes, slightly modified to allow for the connection of medical equipment. Handcuffed, he'll shuffle across the white linoleum floor, past a door into a 9-by-9-foot chamber of cinderblock walls coated in cold-gray paint.

The room is largely empty, save for a metal gurney, a trashcan for biohazard waste and a couple of stainless steel tables for medical supplies.

Medical professionals will connect a heart monitor and an IV to each arm, stringing the tubes through holes in the wall to the executioner's station on the other side. The executioner, whose identity is being kept secret from all but a handful of people, will sit behind a curtain with a Department of Corrections staff member to monitor. The executioner will be able to see Haugen through one-way glass.

In a new precaution, Haugen's hands will be wrapped in gauze to prevent him from making obscene gestures to witnesses. Premo said he has no reason to believe Haugen would do that but he's acting cautiously following a recent incident in another state.

When the prison's assistant superintendent slides open thick beige curtains, he'll see mirrors all around him except for a single pane of glass that allows him to see any friends or family he's invited.

Haugen will make a final statement, and the executioner will squeeze pentobarbital into a catheter and almost instantly put the inmate sleep.

Five minutes later, in another new precaution, Premo will enter the execution chamber and check Haugen's responsiveness. He'll put his hand on Haugen's shoulder and say the inmate's name three times. If there's no response, Premo will put his finger on Haugen's eyelash and check for an instinctive twitch.

If Haugen is nonresponsive, the execution will continue. A second drug, pancuronium bromide, will stop his breathing. A third, potassium chromide, will stop his heart. Premo will announce the time of death.

Haugen and Jason Van Brumwell were sentenced to death in 2007 for the killing four years earlier of David Polin, who was found with 84 stab wounds and a crushed skull in the prison's band room.

At the time of Polin's death, Haugen was serving a life sentence for fatally beating Mary Archer, his ex-girlfriend's mother, in 1981. Unlike Haugen, Van Brumwell has appealed his sentence.

Death penalty opponents have asked the Oregon Supreme Court to step in and block Haugen's execution, arguing that his death warrant hearing didn't properly evaluate Haugen's competency to waive his appeals. The justices have not yet ruled on that request.

Activists have also asked Gov. John Kitzhaber to halt all executions and conduct a thorough review of capital punishment in Oregon. A Kitzhaber spokesman has said the governor won't comment until the legal process plays out.

Two dedicated telephone lines connect the execution chamber directly to top state officials. A red phone calls the governor's office, a blue one the attorney general's.

Throughout the process, Premo said, Haugen will repeatedly be asked whether he's sure he wants to proceed. He can back out at any time before the first dose of medication drips into his bloodstream.

"Once the first pentobarbital syringe is infused, there's no turning back," Premo said.

Previous stories:

Sept. 27, 2011: Death row inmate pushing for execution is competent, judge says
May 12, 2011: Death row inmate asks for execution

Copyright 2011 KPTV. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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