Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, who is resigning from office amid scandal, has an opportunity to put a positive spin (for some) on his exit.

Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, placed a moratorium in 2011 on all executions in the state. He said it was one of his proudest achievements as governor. But once he resigns, proceedings on those executions will resume. That is, unless he commutes the sentences of 33 men and one woman.

That idea is floated by The Oregonian, which points out that Kitzhaber’s replacement, Secretary of State Kate Brown, could also continue the moratorium or commute the sentences. Brown is a progressive politician and, incidentally, will be America’s first openly bisexual governor.

The current occupant of that office was pressured into resigning after a series of reports exploring his fiancee’s conflict of interest. Cylvia Hayes was apparently in a relationship with Kitzhaber and working in his office while simultaneously receiving income from firms with business before the state. Another Oregonian article suggests the couple simply needed the money, though that’s no excuse. The U.S. attorney’s office is looking into any wrongdoing.

Kitzhaber would not be the first governor to commute a large group of inmates, nor would his commutation be the biggest. Illinois Gov. George Ryan took more than 150 souls off death row in 2003.

— Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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