Media ask judge to release Gary Haugen’s psychological evaluation

Gary Haugen at his mental competency hearing Sept. 27 in Salem.  (Image: Marion County Courthouse feed)

Gary Haugen at his mental competency hearing Sept. 27 in Salem. (Image: Marion County Courthouse feed)

By Helen Jung, The Oregonian, Nov. 8, 2011

The public has the right under state law to view evidence that a Marion County circuit judge weighed in finding that death row inmate Gary Haugen is mentally competent to be executed, an attorney for The Oregonian and other media organizations argued today.

The evidence includes the psychological evaluation completed by a Portland psychologist and submitted to the court, said attorney Charles Hinkle, representing The Oregonian, The Statesman-Journal and The Associated Press.

Judge Joseph Guimond considered the report, as well as the psychologist’s testimony and other evidence, in considering whether Haugen meets legal standards to be executed.

“There is no more important decision that this court will ever make,” Hinkle said. A September hearing when the psychologist testified about the report doesn’t remove the requirement that the report itself should be available for public review, he said.

Haugen has repeatedly sought to waive his legal appeals and be executed. A legal defense center has questioned whether the court adequately considered his mental competence in allowing the execution to go forward and has filed an unrelated request to the state Supreme Court asking for a new competency hearing.

But attorneys for Haugen and for the state object to the media organizations’ motion, saying the newspapers and wire service don’t have legal standing to make the request. The attorneys also said they believe the evaluation includes information that could jeopardize the safety of inmates, employees and others at the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem.

Release of the evaluation could mean “other deaths that could potentially occur,” said Marion County Deputy District Attorney Douglas Hanson.

It’s unclear what in the evaluation, which covers Haugen’s childhood, drug use in and out of prison and mental-health episodes in prison, poses the security concerns.

Guimond said he would weigh the security concerns in making a decision, although he didn’t give a time line when he’ll rule.