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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…

Delaware: Former death row inmate heads back to prison

Jermaine Wright (right) turns himself in.
Jermaine Wright (right) turns himself in.
Jermaine Wright, a former death row inmate who was freed last year, is turning himself in Friday morning as a crowd of emotional well-wishers gathered to say goodbye.

A group marched from Wright's home in Eastside down Market Street, before stopping outside the office of his attorney, Eugene Maurer.

The move follows a Delaware Supreme Court ruling this week that his videotaped confession can be used by prosecutors at his retrial.

In a unanimous court opinion released Tuesday, the state's top 5 justices overturned a lower court's decision to toss the videotaped confession in which Jermaine Wright admits to the 1991 murder of Phillip Seifert, a disabled liquor store clerk.

The confession was the linchpin of the state's death penalty case against Wright more than 2 decades ago - and would have made it nearly impossible to prosecute Wright at a retrial had the court not allowed the tape to be played.

Wright was one of Delaware's longest serving inmates on death row before he was freed last year.

He was accused of shooting Seifert, 66, 3 times - once in the neck and twice in the head - during a robbery of the former Hi-Way Inn on Governor Printz Boulevard on Jan. 14, 1991.

There were no eyewitnesses and no physical evidence from the murder, but an anonymous tip led police to Wright. Police did not have probable cause to charge him so they arrested him as a suspect in 2 unrelated shootings.

While being interviewed by police at the Wilmington Police headquarters, he confessed on camera to the Hi-Way Inn murder.

The state then used the videotaped confession to convince a jury to convict Wright and sentence him to death in 1992. Since then, his case wound its way through the lengthy appeals process that is often standard in death penalty cases.

His break came in 2014 when the Supreme Court overturned his conviction and ordered a retrial on the grounds that prosecutors withheld evidence in 1991 about a 2nd robbery that occurred at Brandywine Village Liquors, a store about a mile and a half away from the Hi-Way Inn.

In anticipation of the retrial, Wright's attorneys filed a motion to suppress the videotaped confession, saying Wright was highly susceptible to suggestion and was not properly read his Miranda rights when he confessed at age 18.

Source: The News Journal, January 15, 2016

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