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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…

U.S. judge rejects bid for new trial for Boston Marathon bomber

'Supermax' high-security prison, Florence, Colorado
'Supermax' high-security prison, Florence, Colorado
A U.S. judge rejected on Friday a request for a new trial for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, saying the issues his attorneys raised had been resolved prior to his trial last year.

Tsarnaev was sentenced last June to death by lethal injection for his role in the 2013 bomb attack, which killed three people and injured more than 260.

The judge also ordered Tsarnaev to pay more than $101 million in restitution to victims.

U.S. District Judge George O'Toole said the court had already resolved some factors Tsarnaev's attorneys raised in seeking a new trial, such as their argument that it was impossible to seat an impartial jury in Boston due to intense publicity surrounding the attack.

"There is no reason to think that if the trial had been moved to another district, the local media in that district would not also have given it attentive coverage," O'Toole wrote in his 37-page ruling.

He also noted that defense attorney Judith Clarke admitted in her opening statements that Tsarnaev, along with his older brother Tamerlan, carried out the attack, saying "It was him."

The defense had focused on trying to spare Tsarnaev the death penalty, rather than prove his innocence.

The judge also rejected defense arguments that a new trial was justified by a Supreme Court decision, reached two days after Tsarnaev's sentencing, that a U.S. law stiffening sentences for crimes committed while in possession of a gun was overly broad.

Tsarnaev, 22, is being held at the "Supermax" high-security prison in Florence, Colorado, while his attorneys appeal his death sentence.

He was last seen in public on June 24, when he said he was "sorry for the lives I have taken."

Legal wrangling over Tsarnaev's fate could play out for years or even decades. Just three of the 74 people sentenced to death in the United States for federal crimes since 1998 have been executed.

Source: Reuters, Scott Malone, January 16, 2016

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