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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

Saudi executes man convicted of killing wife

Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Saudi Arabia on Monday executed a man convicted of killing his wife, adding to a toll which rights group Amnesty International says is the kingdom's highest in two decades.

Hawas al-Shammry, a Saudi, was put to death for stabbing his Saudi wife to death after a dispute, the interior ministry said in a statement.

Authorities carried out the sentence in Rafha, in the kingdom's north.

According to AFP tallies, Shammry is the 148th local or foreigner put to death this year, against 87 for all of 2014.

London-based Amnesty says the number of executions in Saudi Arabia this year is the highest since 192 people were put to death in 1995.

The toll has rarely exceeded 90 annually in recent years, it said.

Reasons for the surge are unclear.

Over the last few weeks, however, there has been a marked drop in executions, all of which are reported by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Rights experts have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom but Saudi Arabia's interior ministry says the death penalty is a deterrent to crime.

The sentences are usually carried out by beheading with a sword.

Amnesty says Saudi Arabia had the world's third-highest number of executions last year, far behind China and Iran, and ahead of Iraq and the United States.

Under the kingdom's strict Islamic legal code, murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape, homosexuality and apostasy are all punishable by death.

Source: Agence France-Presse, December 7, 2015

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