Oregon’s Death Penalty: 25 Minutes to Go

Last week, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber granted a reprieve to a condemned man and announced that he would do the same for any scheduled execution during the remainder of his term in office. Gov. Kitzhaber asked state officials to consider other options besides the death penalty and explained, “I simply cannot participate once again in something that I believe to be morally wrong,” Gov. Kitzhaber further explained that as a licensed physician he had taken an oath to “do no harm.” In making his emotional announcement, Gov. Kitzhaber told how he was haunted by the fact he had allowed Oregon’s only two modern executions.

Whether one agrees with Gov. Kitzhaber or not, one must respect someone who is willing to admit he erred in the past and who takes a moral stand. Gov. Kitzhaber recognized that the trend around the world in recent years has been toward taking a moral stand against state killings when other options, like life in prison, exist. Recognizing there are a number of problems with the American death penalty, Gov. Kitzhaber is putting a moratorium on Oregon executions to allow the state to reconsider whether or not it wishes to continue executing people.

The immediate reprieve stopped the execution of 49-year-old Gary Haugen, who had waived his appeals and wished to be executed. Haugen’s attorney noted that the condemned man, desiring his own execution, would not be happy with the reprieve.

Haugen was within two weeks of his scheduled execution, but Johnny Cash performed a song going further in imagining a condemned man counting down the final 25 minutes before his execution. The song, “25 Minutes to Go,” was written by Shel Silverstein, who also wrote Cash’s hit song, “A Boy Named Sue.” One may hear Silverstein’s sense of humor even in a song like “25 Minutes to Go.” The song’s author may be best known for his children’s books, including The Giving Tree.

In the following video, someone has put together some cool illustrations to go with Johnny Cash’s performance of “25 Minutes to Go” from his famous performance at Folsom Prison on Jan. 13, 1968. (Do you know who did the animation?) Check it out.

You also may watch Cash in another live performance in a video on YouTube. Johnny Cash was another gutsy man like Gov. John Kitzhaber. I miss him.

Bonus Johnny Cash-related Death Penalty News: Johnny’s daughter Roseanne Cash is reuniting with her ex-husband Rodney Crowell for an anti-death penalty concert in Nashville on December 19. John Hiatt will also perform.

What do you think of Johnny Cash’s “25 Minutes to Go”? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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