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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…

Texas brothers won't face death penalty in triple slaying

Conrad Ochoa and Baron Ochoa
Conrad Ochoa and Baron Ochoa
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Prosecutors say two San Antonio brothers charged in a 2011 triple slaying in a case linked to alleged child sex abuse will not face the death penalty.

The San Antonio Express-News reports that prosecutors last week revealed they had dropped efforts to seek the death penalty against Baron and Conrad Ochoa.

Baron Ochoa agreed to plead guilty to sexual abuse of a child and sexual performance by a child, and to cooperate in the case against his brother, who remains charged with capital murder and child pornography.

Conrad Ochoa still faces life in prison without parole if convicted.

The victims included Conrad Ochoa's 10-year-old daughter, her mother and their roommate, who were stabbed to death. The girl had accused her father of sexual abuse in a bitter custody battle.

Conrad and Baron Ochoa became suspects soon after firefighters found the remains of the trio in their burning home on Karen Lane. Conrad Ochoa was in the midst of a bitter custody dispute with Gonzales in which she had accused him of molesting their daughter.

“We were taking our time to ensure we had ... gone down all the possible evidentiary trails there were,” DA Susan Reed said, describing the final result as a “spider web” of circumstantial evidence. “We had to really build the case.”

In the meantime, the brothers have remained incarcerated — the result of December 2011 child exploitation indictments that resulted from the murder investigation. After seizing Conrad Ochoa's computer, authorities reported finding thousands of illegal images of pre-pubescent children, as well as a recording prosecutors say depicts his brother having intercourse with a young girl.

Conrad Ochoa was charged with 38 counts of child pornography possession. Baron Ochoa was charged with continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Suzy Bianchi-Peters, Sammie Ochoa's grandmother and Gonzales' mother, encouraged prosecutors to take their time — “even if it took 10 years” — to make sure they had the strongest case possible.

Source: Associated Press, January 11, 2016

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