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Oregon readies its execution chamber for Haugen

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
Oregon State Penitentiary Superintendent Jeff Premo explains the features of the state's execution room.

SALEM, Ore. – The first inmate to be executed in Oregon since 1997 will have his hands wrapped in gauze to prevent any final obscene gestures. That's one detail that emerged Friday during a media tour of the state's execution chamber.

Oregon State Penitentiary Superintendent Jeff Premo says he has no reason to expect that two-time convicted killer Gary Haugen will try to flip the bird to witnesses. But it's happened elsewhere and Premo says he's taking every precaution to protect the family members of murder victim David Polin.

Haugen has dropped his appeals and is tentatively set to receive a lethal injection on Dec. 6. The seldom-used execution chamber is small – just large enough for a gurney with wings extending from the sides for Haugen’s arms. The executioner administers the lethal drugs from the other side of a wall.

Superintendent Premo says the prison has spent more than a year preparing. In fact, he went to Texas last year to witness an execution there. Prison officials have conducted two full-scale mock executions to prepare, complete with simulated protesters outside the prison.

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.