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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…

Attempt To End Death Penalty In South Dakota Fails

South Dakota
South Dakota
A bill to end the death penalty in South Dakota failed in the state legislature.

State Senator Art Rusch, who spent many years as a prosecutor and circuit judge, brought Senate Bill 94 to the House State Affairs Committee Wednesday.

Testimony on both sides was often emotional. Lynnette Johnson of Sioux Falls lost her husband on his 63rd birthday in 2011. Ronald "RJ" Johnson was attacked and killed during an escape attempt by 1 men serving life prison terms. Johnson's widow is opposed to repealing executions in the state.

Attorney General Marty Jackley says he's aware of the strong feelings for and against executions in the state. He says his job is to protect innocent lives in South Dakota.

"And unfortunately, in our society there are just some individuals that are so dangerous, so vile, that in order to protect innocent life, you might have to take a life," Jackley says.

The State Affairs Committee defeated a "do pass" motion on the measure; members then deferred Senate Bill 94 to the 41st Legislative Day.

Source: sdpb.org, Feb. 11, 2016


Senate committee rejects measure to repeal death penalty

A Senate committee has defeated a measure that would repeal the death penalty in South Dakota.

The Senate State Affairs committee voted 7-2 on Wednesday against the plan.

Republican Sen. Arthur Rusch, a former judge, is the measure's Senate sponsor. He says the practice overburdens counties and traumatizes jurors and court personnel.

Rusch told the committee that he has personally prosecuted a death penalty case and has seen the damaging effects firsthand.

Rusch says death penalty cases are unfairly taxing on county governments and have long-term effects on those involved. He also says he doesn't believe the punishment is an effective deterrent on crime.

The committee voted down 2 measures to repeal or limit the death penalty last session.

Source: Associated Press, Feb. 11, 2016

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