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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 prosecutor who sent man to death row for crime he didn’t commit seeks to keep law license

Anthony Graves
Anthony Graves
A lawyer for Charles Sebesta, the ex-prosecutor who secured the wrongful death sentence of Anthony Graves, told a panel of the State Bar of Texas on Friday that he should not be disbarred based on technicalities in the rules that govern lawyer discipline.

In June, the Texas State Bar revoked the law license of Sebesta, the former Burleson County district attorney, finding that he had engaged in prosecutorial misconduct in Graves’ wrongful conviction.

Graves was sentenced to death in 1994 and spent 18 years behind bars, including 12 on death row, for a fiery multiple murder. He was close to execution twice.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Graves’ conviction in 2010. The court found that Sebesta secured Graves’ conviction through several instances of prosecutorial wrongdoing, including withholding key evidence and suborning false testimony.

Sebesta appealed the disbarment, arguing that in 2007 the agency had already ruled that there was no cause to disbar him in response to an earlier complaint about his work in the Graves case.

In 2007, while Graves was still in prison, the Bar dismissed a complaint regarding Sebesta’s conduct in the case, finding that the statute of limitations on the alleged wrondgoing had expired.

Graves filed a new complaint in 2014, after lawmakers changed the statute of limitations for prosecutors accused of misconduct. Under the new law, those who have been wrongly convicted have up to four years after their release to seek discipline against prosecutors who engage in conduct such as withholding evidence and eliciting false testimony.

Jane Webre, who was defending Sebesta before the disciplinary board, argued that bar rules prevent the board from making a different ruling on Graves’ recent complaint after it already determined the former prosecutor wasn’t subject to disbarment for his role in that conviction.


Source: The Dallas Morning News, Brandi Grissom, January 29, 2016

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