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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…

Virginia Death Row Inmates Ask Court to Keep Expanded Privileges

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Virginia's death row inmates say they fear the expanded privileges they recently received are only temporary and are asking a judge to forbid the state from reinstating what they consider to be "dehumanizing conditions."

Prison officials overhauled Virginia's death row policies this year after several inmates sued the state. 

Officials granted the seven men awaiting execution more recreation time, among other things.

But the inmates' attorneys say unless the court intervenes, there's nothing stopping officials from rolling back those changes and reinstating restrictions that they argue amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

Prison officials reject the inmates' claim that their prior treatment was unconstitutional. 

Furthermore, they've asked the judge to rule in their favor, saying a trial is unnecessary because the previous policies are no longer in effect.

Source: AP, December 30, 2015

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