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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…

Trump: Death penalty for cop killers

Presidential hopeful Donald Trump
Presidential hopeful Donald Trump
Portsmouth, New Hampshire (CNN) - Donald Trump announced Thursday that if elected president, he would sign an executive order to mandate the death penalty for convicted cop killers.

Trump announced his latest legally questionable policy proposal after accepting the endorsement of the New England Police Benevolent Association, a police union representing more than 4,000 law enforcement officials -- an endorsement Trump characterized as a "lifetime improvement award."

"One of the first things I do, in terms of executive order if I win, will be to sign a strong, strong statement that will go out to the country -- out to the world -- that anybody killing a policeman, policewoman, a police officer -- anybody killing a police officer, the death penalty. It's going to happen, OK?" Trump said in brief remarks to the several hundred police union members gathered for the endorsement.

Trump did not explain the legality of mandating a death penalty sentence via executive order. Nineteen states, as well as the District of Columbia, have outlawed the punishment. The death penalty is legal at the federal level and prosecutors can seek capital punishment in some murder cases, including ones involving the killings of state or local law enforcement officials, but it's unclear how an executive action could be used to require this.

Trump's campaign did not immediately return a request for comment.

The proposal comes days after Trump called for barring Muslims from entering the U.S., which was roundly criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike as counter to American founding principles of religious tolerance and potentially illegal.

Beyond the shaky legal grounds, Trump's cop killer proclamation may also not sit well with conservatives who have consistently slammed President Barack Obama for using his executive authority too broadly to implement policy proposals he could not pass through Congress.

In his brief remarks Thursday, Trump touted the role of police officers in the face of terrorist threats, pointing to the actions of local police officers last week in the San Bernardino terrorist attack.

He also called for police to have military-style equipment and vehicles.

"We've got to let our police have the finest equipment and the finest training, and if we don't, we're making a tremendous mistake as a country," Trump said.

Trump also remarked on the heat he has taken in recent days since he called for banning Muslims from entering the United States.

"We have people talking, let me tell you that," Trump said, before remarking that he took even more fire from critics when he announced his controversial immigration proposals, which include making Mexico pay for a wall across the U.S.'s southern border and deporting the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.

Outside the event, though, an estimated 200 people gathered to protest Trump's presence.

The protesters' signs shared messages of love and welcoming for Muslims and Syrian refugees -- whose entry to the U.S. Trump also opposes -- with signs that read "Love > Hate" and "Being a Muslim isn't a crime."


Source: CNN, Jeremy Diamond, December 11, 2015

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