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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…

Pakistan: The year of most executions

As many as 301 people were executed in the Punjab last year. Thousands of prisoners on death row continue to wait for verdicts on their appeals. 

There are at least 5,145 people on death row. Of these, there are 42 women whose appeals are pending before the high court and the Supreme Court, sources in the office of the Punjab inspector general (prisons) told The Express Tribune.

Recently, 63 appeals against death penalty were dismissed by the president. Dates of execution are to be notified soon. There are 4,213 appeals pending in the Lahore High Court and its allied benches; 743 in the Supreme Court, 124 with the president and 3 with the Pakistan Army GHQ.

After the deadly attack on Army Public School in Peshawar on December 16, 2014, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had lifted the moratorium on death penalty. The first execution was then carried out on April 8 in Machh Jail in Balochistan.

These executions were stayed during a month's reprieve in Ramazan. However, they resumed at the end of July.

As many as 301 people were executed in 7 months. Most had been languishing in jails for more than 20 years.

Kanizan, a prisoner on death row, has exhausted her appeals and is waiting for her turn to be hanged.

She is currently being held at Lahore's Kot Lakhpat Jail. Prison authorities have moved her to a psychiatric ward, saying she is not mentally stable. She was sentenced to death for killing 6 children and their mother in connivance with their father in Toba Tek Singh.

Most of those executed had been convicted of murder over personal enmity, kidnapping for ransom, rape and robbery.

Less than 30 people were executed for terrorist activities. Among those executed for terrorist activities, 13 were tried under the Anti-Terrorism Act, while 12 were hanged after being punished by Field General Court Martial. 8 people were executed for assassination attempts on former president General (r) Pervez Musharraf and 1 person for the attack outside the US Consulate in Karachi. A man was hanged for attacking the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army in Rawalpindi.

Among those convicted by Field General Court Martial, three were former officials of the Pakistan Air Force, three of Pakistan Army, one was the son of a retired army official and one was a sepoy, who had killed a colleague in Peshawar Cantt while on duty.

Of the 13 people tried by Anti-Terrorism Courts, 8 belonged to the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. They had been convicted for sectarian killings. 3 among them were those who had hijacked a PIA plane from Turbat to Karachi in 1998.

Supreme Court advocate Tipu Salman Makhdoom says the worst in terms of executions is yet to come.

"More executions are expected in 2016. This is going to bring a bad name to Pakistan," he says.

"People are being hanged over personal enmities, not because of their involvement in terrorism. The government should arrest real terrorists, establish cases against them and give them exemplary punishment."

Source: The Express Tribune, January 2, 2016

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