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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…

Iran’s Hard-Line Press Adds to Bounty on Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie
Salman Rushdie
TEHRAN — A group of hard-line Iranian news media organizations says it has raised $600,000 to add to a bounty for the killing of the British novelist Salman Rushdie.

Iran’s former supreme leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa, or religious edict, in 1989 calling for Mr. Rushdie to be killed because of his book “The Satanic Verses,” which the ayatollah found to be blasphemous and insulting toward Muslims. Mr. Rushdie has since then been living largely out of sight and under the protection of bodyguards.

The semiofficial Fars news agency, one of the organizations involved, reported that the new reward money was gathered during a trade fair called the Islamic Republic’s Digital Media Exhibition. It quoted the secretary of the exhibition saying that the $600,000 had been announced last week to mark the anniversary of the 1989 fatwa.

The Iranian government distanced itself from calls for Mr. Rushdie’s death under former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who declared in 1998 that the fatwa had ended. But the religious authorities said it could not be withdrawn by anyone other than Ayatollah Khomeini, who died four months after issuing it. His successor, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in 2005 that the fatwa remained valid.

The decree had already put a considerable price on Mr. Rushdie’s head: A religious organization called the 15 Khordad Foundation initially offered a $2.7 million reward to anyone carrying out the fatwa, then increased it to $3.3 million in 2012. The new money, bringing the total bounty to nearly $4 million, came from 40 news outlets listed by Fars, which said that it had contributed $30,000.

Iranian hard-line organizations tend to make symbolic gestures involving the Rushdie fatwa every year around its anniversary, Feb. 14. Whether the bounty really would be paid is unclear.


Source: The New York Times, Feb. 24, 2016

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