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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…

New bill aiming to make death penalty easier to impose in Colorado

6 Republican lawmakers in Colorado are pushing to pass a bill that will remove the unanimous voting requirement for death sentences. If passed, the law could make it easier to impose death penalties during court proceedings.

The bill, called SB 64, is sponsored by State Representatives Kevin Lundberg, John Cooke, Vicki Marble, Laura Woods and Kevin Grantham. It is still awaiting to be discussed in the state's House of Representatives.

In the current judicial system, the jury can only allow a death sentence to be ruled by the court if all 12 of its members agree on a unanimous vote. With the proposed law, the politicians are aiming to change this rule and reduce the number of votes to 9 instead of 12, The Denver Channel has learned.

According to 9News, SB 64 was drafted by its sponsors in response to the mass shooting that occurred in 2012 during the midnight screening of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight Rises" in a theater in Aurora, Colorado. The incident left 12 people dead.

The gunman, who was identified by previous reports as James Eagan Holmes, was supposed to receive death penalty. Instead, he receive a life sentence because the votes of the jury members were divided. For the sponsors of the bill, this law would empower the court to lay down the most serious form of punishment for heinous crimes.

However, the chances of the bill passing seem a bit dim given the current status of Colorado's House of Representatives. Currently, majority of the lawmakers serving the state are Democrats and most of them are against capital punishment. One of them, Representative Jovan Melton of Aurora, noted that the state should not consider loosening the requirement for death penalty.

"[The death penalty] really is an archaic practice that needs to go away," he said according to 9News. "By reducing the threshold and making it easier, we're just doing the wrong thing."

Source: lawyerherald.com, January 20, 2016

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