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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 Pakistani heroin smuggler

Public executions in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public executions in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Riyadh: Saudi Arabia on Tuesday executed a convicted Pakistani heroin smuggler, adding to a toll which rights group Amnesty International says is the kingdom`s highest in two decades.

The ministry of interior said Khan Iqbal was put to death in the holy city of Mecca for smuggling a large amount of heroin in his intestines.

According to AFP tallies, Iqbal is the 149th 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 and say the death penalty should not be applied in drug cases.

Last month the European Union issued a statement saying a number of people had been put to death recently in Saudi Arabia after convictions for drug trafficking.

"The European Union is opposed to capital punishment in all cases and without exception," it said.

Source: Agence France-Presse, December 8, 2015

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