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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…

Nebraska: Death penalty debate heats up as both sides fight for voters

Signing a petition against the Nebraska death penalty repeal
Signing a petition against the Nebraska death penalty repeal
This November major issues will appear on the ballot in Nebraska beyond who's elected to the presidency.

The death penalty debate is heating up again, bot sides launching re-newed campaigns.

Last Wednesday, the advocated for abolishing the death penalty launched "Retain A Just Nebraska". But coming soon, the people who want to keep the death penalty will launch "Repeal the Repeal".

"We think that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for heinous murderers and we are going to do anything we can to make sure Nebraskans understand that and go out and vote in November," said Rod Edwards, state field director of Nebraskans for the Death Penalty.

9 months from the general election, both sides are already gearing up for a fight to win over voters.

"It's just costing us money," said Lincoln Senator Colby Coash during a Retain A Just Nebraska commercial.

Nebraska hasn't carried out an execution since 1997. Supporters of the abolishment say capital punishment isn't cost effective.

However Edwards disagrees, "They try and say that the death penalty is more expensive--that is not accurate."

Edwards said opponents are tipping their hand by starting to advertise already.

"Our opposition is out there already with slick television ads 9 months before the election just goes to show that they know they have a lot of ground to make up," said Edwards.

The Nebraska legislature overrode a veto from Governor Pete Ricketts to abolish the death penalty in the state.

Since then, more than 166,000 Nebraskans signed the petition to reinstate the death penalty.

Voters will decide which side will win in November.

Source: KMTV news, Feb. 29, 2016


Nebraskans for the Death Penalty is finalizing Repeal the Repeal campaign

The campaign to bring back capital punishment is about to start its next phase.

Nebraskans for the Death Penalty gathered 166,000 signatures last year to get a referendum on the issue the November General Election ballot.

Group co-founder Bob Evnen says a grassroots campaign will convince voters the death penalty is needed and not a broken system.

"And what I would really hope that the Unicameral would turn its attention to would be how to carry out the sentence and to focus on that instead of just throwing in the towel," Evnen tells Nebraska Radio Network.

Evnen says they are putting together a coalition of groups and people who believe the state needs to execute those who commit serious crimes.

"It will be a campaign that covers all the bases. It certainly will be a grassroots campaign," Evnen says. "There are tens and hundreds of thousands of Nebraskans who favor retaining the death penalty - repealing the repeal."

The legislature repealed the death penalty last year, and the group Retain a Just Nebraska is fighting to keep that from being overturned in November's election.

Source: Nebraska Radio Network, Feb. 29, 2016

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