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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…

More Malaysians want end to mandatory death penalty, online poll shows

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Over 1/2 of Malaysians surveyed in an online poll want the government to scrap the mandatory death sentence that leaves judges with no discretion to hand down lighter punishments.

Conducted by Barisan Nasional (BN) component Gerakan, the online poll results showed 838 online respondents were in favour of abolishing the mandatory death sentence while 685 respondents disagreed with judges being given the discretion to decide sentences, the party's Youth wing leader Chai Ko Thing told a news conference today.

"As you can see from the results of votes garnered, the ratio is those who agreed are 55 % and those who disagreed is 45," the Gerakan Youth Legal Bureau chief said.

The survey results were collected from 1,523 anonymous Internet users over a 3-week period from January 22 and February 15 through Gerakan's online poll site bettermalaysiapoll.org.

The survey posed just 1 question: "In your opinion, should Malaysia abolish the mandatory death penalty?" and the results were based on the number of "Yes" or "No" clicks obtained.

According to Chai, the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia applies to various crimes such as murder, firearm possession, kidnapping with ransom, waging war against the King and drug offences.

However, he said the government has currently shown its intention to remove the mandatory death penalty for drug-related offences, a move he said is backed by public sentiments based on the poll results.

He said Gerakan had, in 2013, initiated a petition titled "No to death penalty", adding however the scrapping of mandatory death sentences may be a good starting point and middle path.

"So the party's stand on this issue is we are going for total abolishment of death sentence, but as a start from the result of this poll - it seems to be divided, maybe to remove mandatory, then we work towards total abolishment of death sentence," he said.

Source: themalaymailonline.com, February 18, 2016

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