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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 put to death in kingdom's 151st execution of year

Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
A Saudi convicted of murder was executed on Tuesday, in the 151st death sentence carried out this year in the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Sultan al-Dosari was executed in the eastern province of Ihsa after his conviction for stabbing to death another man, the interior ministry said.

According to AFP tallies, his case brings to 151 the number of locals and foreigners put to death this year, against 87 for all of 2014.

Amnesty International says the number of executions in Saudi Arabia this year is the highest for 2 decades, 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 past few weeks, however, there has been a marked drop in executions, all of which are reported by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi executions are usually carried out by beheading with a sword.

Rights experts have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in the kingdom, where the interior ministry says the death penalty is a deterrent to crime.

Amnesty says Saudi Arabia had the world's 3rd-highest number of executions last year, after China and Iran.

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 15, 2015

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