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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…

Sri Lankan maid wins reprieve from death by stoning in Saudi Arabia

Colombo: Saudi authorities have agreed to retry a Sri Lankan housemaid sentenced to death by stoning for adultery, her country’s deputy foreign minister said Tuesday.

Harsha de Silva told parliament in Colombo the government had secured a fresh trial for the woman after Sri Lankan diplomats visited her in a Saudi jail over the weekend.

“Through our intervention, they (Saudi authorities) have agreed to reopen the case,” de Silva told parliament.

“This can be considered a big victory. We will provide her with legal counsel,” he added, without elaborating on the grounds for a retrial.

The woman, a 45-year-old married mother of two who has not been named, was convicted of adultery in August.

She was sentenced to death by stoning, while an unmarried Sri Lankan man convicted alongside her was sentenced to 100 lashes.

Sri Lankan lawmakers from all parties have united in urging the government to secure clemency for the woman and a pardon for the man.

Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera met the Saudi envoy to Colombo last week and expressed concern over the case, which has sparked calls for a ban on Sri Lankan women travelling to Saudi Arabia for domestic work.

There were similar calls in 2013 when Saudi Arabia beheaded a Sri Lankan woman convicted of killing a baby in her care in 2005, when she was 17 years old.

Sri Lanka’s Muslim minority on Monday appealed to Saudi King Salman to intervene and pardon the couple.

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

Source: Agence France-Presse, December 8, 2015

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