Sacrificing the Small Fry

Neither murderer Gary Haugen nor Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber understand the nature of sacrifice.

In Kitzhaber’s case it’s surprising. He used to be an emergency room doctor. Certainly he realizes that some people are worth trying to save, and some are not. His efforts on behalf of Haugen not only cost the state of Oregon money, but they distort our values.

Oregon – like the rest of America –  has more important issues than saving a twice-convicted murderer whose guilt is not in doubt.

Were it not for Kitzhaber, Haugen would have been humanely put to death on Dec. 6. Instead, he was chest-thumping a few days ago with his latest legal victory. He is trying to overturn a temporary reprieve by Kitzhaber halting all executions.

Haugen and Kitzhaber need each other.

Haugen fashioned a tolerable life for himself in the prison’s general population. He even carved out enough freedom to stab fellow inmate David Polin and crush his skull. That earned Haugen a spot on Death Row, a much more confining place than the general population.

He told the Statesman-Journal newspaper in Salem that he hated Death Row and wanted to die with dignity, “sacrificing” himself to protest what he described as “the arbitrary and vindictive nature” of the death penalty (as if life itself wasn’t arbitrary and vindictive).

While Haugen plays the martyr, Kitzhaber plays Sister Helen Prejean.

Recalling the two executions that he allowed to take place during his first administration, Kitzhaber said he didn’t believe they made the state safer.

“Certainly I don’t believe they made us nobler as a society. And I simply cannot participate once again in something I believe to be morally wrong.”

If it’s nobility Kitzhaber’s looking for, perhaps he should have stayed in the emergency room and avoided politics.

Or he could find the nobility in carrying out an unpleasant government duty — ensuring a humane death for a man like Haugen. Kitzhaber can steel himself by accepting that Haugen’s death is not a sacrifice. It is not a loss. (Ask the weaker inmates in the general population he has most certainly bullied in his 19-plus years at Oregon State Penitentiary. Unfortunately, we can’t ask Mary Archer, the woman Haugen raped and beat to death, the crime that originally landed him in prison.)

If we cannot defeat an individual evil like Haugen, how would we ever fight a massive injustice? Would we just turn the other cheek?

The shooting deaths last month in an Aurora, Colo., theater opened some Hollywood eyes into what is happening to our culture.

Rob Cohen, director of “The Fast and Furious,” admitted it made him stop and think when he learned that the shooter was dressed as the villain from an earlier Batman movie.

“I just finished a film … even though it’s PG-13, it’s very intense and has a character, played by Matthew Fox, that is meant to be a terrible, terrible villain. But the way Matthew and I (developed) that character, he’s actually very charismatic and the audience’s favorite character in research previews,” Cohen said on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation.”

He told the show’s host, Neal Conan, “It’s interesting how an anti-hero or a villain can, in today’s zeitgeist, be projected with so much charisma that we wind up in a darker, more disturbing area of human experience.”

Minutes later Conan read this email from Sarah in Ogden, Utah: “Your discussions reminded me that when my nephew plays, he always wants to be the bad guy. This is a big change from when I was a kid. We always wanted to be the good guy, the hero and save the day.”

People like Tom O’Connor should be pleased by this turn.

O’Connor, a board member of Oregonians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, runs a company called Transforming Corrections.

“It’s really trying to help (correctional agencies) become more compassionate, more effective and less costly,” he told the Statesman-Journal.

Playing off Gary Haugen’s sacrificial heroics is one way to generate compassion. When that doesn’t work, there’s the cost angle.

Haugen has gloated that he is “a cash cow” for attorneys. As of eight months ago, the Statesman-Journal in Salem estimated that taxpayers had spent more than $1.2 million in attorney fees and other costs associated with the case in the past five years.

“If capital punishment is prohibitively expensive, it is because those professionally seeking to abolish it have made it so,” writes Charles C. Johnson in the Los Angeles Times.

He detailed the farcical nature of some of the lawsuits filed by death penalty opponents (who deceptively call themselves “abolitionists” hoping to trade on the civil rights movement).

Consider the case of Michael Morales, who admitted killing 17-year-old Terri Winchell.

“She was stabbed, strangled, knifed and hammered,” Johnson writes. Twenty-one years later, Morales has still not been executed. The grounds for his latest stay:  There is a .001 percent chance that the three-drug method of execution might cause Morales pain.

In March, former New York Times reporter Raymond Bonner appeared at Powell’s books in downtown Portland to promote his “Anatomy of Injustice,” about a man on South Carolina’s Death Row he believed was innocent of murder (the man left prison, choosing to plead guilty instead of facing a retrial).

This plodding book includes eight pages of photographs – not a single one of the victim, 76-year-old Dorothy Edwards. However, there are three pictures of the blonde defense attorney (including a cleavage shot when she was 17).

To drum up interest in his book, Bonner asked Clatsop County District Attorney Josh Marquis to appear with him at Powell’s. Marquis is a nationally-known death penalty supporter, and the two enjoy a friendly rivalry.

Bonner played to a sympathetic crowd at Powell’s. During the Q-and-A a man who looked to be in his late 30s stood tall and confident. He didn’t so much ask a question as issue a declaration, telling Marquis that he was wasting time going after “small fry” when powerful politicians and corporations are destroying lives.

Marquis let him have his say, and then quietly replied.

“Murder victims have names and faces,” he said. “They are not small fry.”

They are also easily forgotten. In the recent coverage of Haugen’s latest legal maneuver, news stories mentioned that the last death row inmate to get a reprieve (and later a commutation) by a governor was Billy Junior Nunn. His victim didn’t merit a name.

If you dig into The Oregonian’s archives from the 1950’s, you will find that Nunn sexually assaulted and killed a 14-year-old Klamath Falls boy named Alvin Eacret.

Delve a little further, and you will find these lost words from his mother, Lillie Eacret, who wanted then-Gov. Robert D. Holmes to stand in her son’s corner.

“My son was not strong, and perhaps for that reason he occupied a special place in the hearts of all of us, especially his older brother. Death comes to all of us … fortunately, death comes to few people the way it came to Alvin. There is dignity in death as it usually comes. There is even dignity when it comes in the form of legal and solemn execution. Alvin’s death was without dignity.”

The boy’s nude body was found near Tubb Springs State Park east of Medford.  He had a belt wrapped around his neck and a cloth gag stuffed in his mouth.

Next time Haugen or one of his saviors mentions “sacrifice,” think of Alvin Eacret.

His mother died 10 years ago. His killer?

The Oregon Board of Parole told the Statesman-Journal in Salem that it has no record of when he was released.

My Google search turned up a Billy Junior Nunn in Dayton, Ore. who’s 84. That’s how old Alvin Eacret’s killer would be if he were still alive.

Alvin Eacret would be 70, but he never made it past 14.

– Pamela Fitzsimmons


Haugen’s Media Super Bowl


  • G. Sanchez wrote:

    My wife and I go back and forth on the death penalty. When we lived in Calif. we agreed with it, after we come to Oregon we weren’t so sure. We’re back to thinking its got a purpose.

    I hate to think what that mother went through knowing her little boy’s killer would get to live. The description of his body, that’s a tough thing to know.

  • Yes, that’s why there are always complaints when the media reveal details of what really happens to crime victims.

    I also wonder about the two 14-year-old girls who were visiting a park on a spring day and found Alvin’s body. Like them, he was 14. He was naked, bound and gagged. How did that affect those girls? Billy Junior Nunn touched them, too.

    Thank you for caring about Alvin’s mother.


  • Dudley Sharp wrote:


    1) Saint (& Pope) Pius V: “The just use of (executions), far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this (Fifth) Commandment which prohibits murder.” “The Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent” (1566).

    2) Pope Pius XII; “When it is a question of the execution of a man condemned to death it is then reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned of the benefit of life, in expiation of his fault, when already, by his fault, he has dispossessed himself of the right to live.” 9/14/52.

    3) John Murray: “Nothing shows the moral bankruptcy of a people or of a generation more than disregard for the sanctity of human life.”

    “… it is this same atrophy of moral fiber that appears in the plea for the abolition of the death penalty.”

    “It is the sanctity of life that validates the death penalty for the crime of murder. It is the sense of this sanctity that constrains the demand for the infliction of this penalty. The deeper our regard for life the firmer will be our hold upon the penal sanction which the violation of that sanctity merit.” (Page 122 of Principles of Conduct).

    4) Immanuel Kant: “If an offender has committed murder, he must die. In this case, no possible substitute can satisfy justice. For there is no parallel between death and even the most miserable life, so that there is no equality of crime and retribution unless the perpetrator is judicially put to death.”.

    “A society that is not willing to demand a life of somebody who has taken somebody else’s life is simply immoral.”

    5) Billy Graham: “God will not tolerate sin. He condemns it and demands payment for it. God could not remain a righteous God and compromise with sin. His holiness and His justice demand the death penalty.” ( “The Power of the Cross,” published in the Apr. 2007 issue of Decision magazine ).

    6) Theodore Roosevelt: “It was really heartrending to have to see the kinfolk and friends of murderers who were condemned to death, and among the very rare occasions when anything governmental or official caused me to lose sleep were times when I had to listen to some poor mother making a plea for a criminal so wicked, so utterly brutal and depraved, that it would have been a crime on my part to remit his punishment.”.

    7) Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “Again, every rogue who criminously attacks social rights becomes, by his wrong, a rebel and a traitor to his fatherland. By contravening its laws, he ceases to be one of its citizens: he even wages war against it. In such circumstances, the State and he cannot both be saved: one or the other must perish. In killing the criminal, we destroy not so much a citizen as an enemy. The trial and judgments are proofs that he has broken the Social Contract, and so is no longer a member of the State.” (The Social Contract).

    8) John Locke: “A criminal who, having renounced reason… hath, by the unjust violence and slaughter he hath committed upon one, declared war against all mankind, and therefore may be destroyed as a lion or tyger, one of those wild savage beasts with whom men can have no society nor security.” And upon this is grounded the great law of Nature, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.” Second Treatise of Civil Government.

  • Thank you for some thought-provoking quotations. I think I like Roosevelt’s the best because it applies to what’s happening in Oregon. It is a crime that Gov. Kitzhaber will not carry out Gary Haugen’s execution. Haugen’s guilt is not in doubt. By fixating on Haugen’s life, Kitzhaber and death penalty opponents are diminishing the value of his victims’ lives.

    Oregon is generally considered a liberal state. Here in Portland we have a lot of vegetarians and vegans, and I’ve seen a bumper sticker around town that shows a cow looking at a cut of steak. The cow says “I was using that.”

    I suspect that many death penalty opponents in Oregon would look at that bumper sticker and sympathize with the cow. When it comes to death penalty, though, they sympathize with the butcher and expect the cow to forgive.


  • Dudley Sharp wrote:


    Thank you for always emphaizing the innocent victims.

    Hugely important.

  • Dudley Sharp wrote:

    Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty
    Dudley Sharp


    What of the mental suffering of a parent who lost their innocent daughter to a rape/murder?

    Prejean’s belief is almost unbelieveable, unless you know her history.

    ” . . .makes you realize the Dead Man Walking truly belongs on the shelf in the library in the Fiction category.” “Being devout Catholics, ‘the norm’ would be to look to the church for support and healing. Again, this need for spiritual stability was stolen by Sister Prejean.” (2)

    The parents of rape/torture/murder victim Loretta Bourque, a Dead Man Walking Case

    “I wouldn’t have had as much trouble with (Prejean’s) views if she would have told the truth . . .” ” . . . (Sr. Prejean) based her book on what was in I guess a defense file and what (rapist/murderer) Robert Willie telling her.” ” . . . she’s trying to mislead people in the book. And that’s something that she’s going have to work out with herself.” “(Sr. Prejean’s) certainly not after giving anybody spiritual advice to try to save their soul.” (2)

    Case Detective Michael Vernado, in the rape/torture/murder of Faith Hathaway, a Dead Man Walking Case

    (1) Prejean: Death penalty is torture, online, October 1, 2012,–Death-penalty-is-torture.html?nav=5010

    (2) “Sister Helen Prejean & the death penalty: A Critical Review”–the-death-penalty-a-critical-review.aspx

    The Death Penalty: Justice & Saving More Innocents
    Dudley Sharp

    The death penalty has a foundation in justice and it spares more innocent lives.

    Anti death penalty arguments are either false or the pro death penalty arguments are stronger.

    The majority populations of all countries may support the death penalty for some crimes (1).

    Why? Justice.


    Of all endeavors that put innocents at risk, is there one with a better record of sparing innocent lives than the US death penalty? Unlikely.

    1) The Death Penalty: Saving More Innocent Lives

    2) Innocents More At Risk Without Death Penalty


    “Moral/ethical Death Penalty Support: Christian and secular Scholars”

    “The Death Penalty: Neither Hatred nor Revenge”

    “The Death Penalty: Not a Human Rights Violation”

    “Killing Equals Killing: The Amoral Confusion of Death Penalty Opponents”–very-distinct-moral-differences–new-mexico.aspx

    1) US Death Penalty Support at 80%; World Support Remains High

    Much more, upon request.

  • Charlane Eacret Carlson wrote:

    Alvin Eacret was my Uncle. I never got to meet his as he was murdered the same year I was born. When we were kids we knew about a binder that was in Grandpa and Grandma’s bedroom. We never opened it because we were told not to. We were told about our Uncle Alvin growing up but with little detail as it was hard for my father and grandparents to tell us. When I 33 years old my grandma handed me that binder and said I could only read it if my husband was with me. The binder has every article of the crime and the trial every written. That is when Uncle Alvin came alive. I cried as I read how he was picked up by a man promising to take him shopping. I could see the excitement in his young eyes. I wondered how long he was in the car before he realized he was in trouble. I seen the look in his eyes as he was crying while being raped. And then I see the fear in his eyes as he was being strangled to death. Do I believe in the death penalty..YES I DO.

  • Ms. Carlson:

    Thank you for writing and for remembering the uncle you never got to meet.

    Sister Helen Prejean will never feel your family’s pain because there is nothing in it for her. She needs people like Billy Junior Nunn to give her life meaning and to give her a chance to show off her righteous bonifides. A prideful nun who loves the goody bags in the Green Room.

    Likewise, Ray Bonner dreams of uncovering an innocent man executed so he can grandstand with a big story and a fat book contract with movie rights. He’s so busy trying to find that rare exception — an innocent man executed — Bonner doesn’t notice the murderers who get away with murder.

  • Hi , I’m just going to leave my name as Mike, I know Billy Nunn I first met him in 1979 soon after he was released from prison. I knew he had killed someone but never knew or ask details. It wasn’t until years later and the advancement of the Internet that I got curios and did some research. What Billy did was a horrific crime and at the time deserved the death penalty. At this point though I have known Bill for a very long time and something happened to him in prison, he changed! Throughout his life after prison he spent most his time helping people learn and overcome there problems. He learned a lot about psychology and spent time helping young men and woman recognize why they have certain feelings good or bad. I was one of those people. I was in to crime,i was a animal abuser and very withdrawn. I was heading down a dark path. Bill helped me to recognize the pattern and path I was headed and helped me to turn my life around. I am 49 now have a great job a wonderful son and and a good life. I watched bill nunn turn a lot of people’s lives from Bad to good. And himself maintain a good job, a productive life and give back to the community. What Billy did was a horrible horrible crime and I in no way will say any different. Perhaps he can be forgiven and his later deads make a difference. But that’s Not up to me. All I can say is that he never forgot his crime and spends his remaining days doing the best he can to help whoever he can. Even with me his crime still lurks in the back of my mind and I havent forgot about how terrible it must have been for the Eacret family. What point do we forgive and who is worth forgiving? Like I said that’s not my place, hopefully the good that Billy has done has prevented others from such a dark path. Mike

  • Mike:

    Thanks for writing and offering your perspective.

    I am glad Mr. Nunn was able to help you, and I hope he has tried to make his life worthy of the gift Gov. John Holmes gave him. From what you have written, it sounds like he has.

    I don’t begrudge Mr. Nunn his second chance at life, but his good news added to the pain of Alvin Eacret’s family. What do we do about that? What do we make of Gov. Holmes coming down on the side of Billy Nunn — and not Alvin Eacret?

    Despite what some politicians think, it’s impossible to legislate forgiveness. In fact, demanding victims forgive their perpetrators is nothing short of psychological assault. It compounds the cruelty of the original crime because the perpetrators in this case — politicians, attorneys, psychologists, journalists, social workers — are engaged in a premeditated, self-serving righteousness. They also belong to a class that is rarely victimized by violent criminals.

    I hope you continue to have a good life.

  • Dearest Pamela, I just want you to know that I in no way would I ever expect anyone to forgive such a horrific crime. That is something that should never be expected or pushed on anyone. I have never had to experience anything near that kind of pain. So I have absolutely no right or say in that. What I was trying to say is that out of such evil somehow there was some good that came from this. I know that Billy may not have deserved a second chance but I hope that Alvin’s family can see in me that I am very thankful that I was to get help at a early age and was able to turn my life around into a positive direction. There are friends of mine that I met through bill that also were able to get help from him in different ways. I know there are people that are releast from prison that should not ever be given a second chance. But for what ever reason Bill was given that chance and he did use it for good toward othets. The chain of abuse that ran in my family was broken because of the things I learned from bill. I hope that the Eacret family have found peace and there pain of there loss from so long ago can be lightened knowing that some light came from such a horrible loss. Thank you Pamela for the chance to leave a post on you site and I wish all of you a long happy life. Mike

  • Penny Snow wrote:

    Alvin was my uncle. I never met him . It breaks my heart to know the extent my grandparents and aunts/uncles suffered. Death penalty, yes. To let this, for the lack of a better word, thing out of prison to have a normal life. Disgusting ludicrous enraging. Did my uncle get that chance? NO! I truly believe in devine retribution or karma if you will. I hope this person had the most tortured excruciating death of all time. I believe any time a sexual predator is caught they should PAY. I leave the sentence up to CREATOR for that.

  • Thank you for writing. I’m sorry for what happened to your uncle.

    I read your comment shortly after reading in The New York Times that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against three Kansas men who were sentenced to death for committing acts of “almost inconceivable cruelty and depravity.”

    What’s interesting is that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision was 8-1, and even Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg joined in the opinion. They have suggested previously that they think the death penalty is cruel and unusual. Personally, I fail to see how death can be cruel and usual since we are all going to die.

    What’s cruel and unusual is what some murderers do to their victims, as in your uncle’s case.

    I was glad to see that in this recent U.S. Supreme Court decision, Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion included a detailed account of what the killers did to their victims. The New York Times’ reporter Adam Liptak even acknowledged that the extended account was notable.

    Death penalty opponents prefer to sanitize the truth.

    If you’re interested, here’s the link to the NY Times story. Don’t feel like you have to read it. As you already know, the families’ suffering doesn’t end.

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