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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…

Obama asks lawmakers to lift obstacles to closing prison at Guantanamo Bay

Guantanamo Military Prison
Guantanamo Military Prison
President Obama on Tuesday urged lawmakers to lift obstacles to closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as he presented to Congress a long-awaited roadmap for shuttering a facility he said symbolized the excesses that following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

“This is about closing a chapter in our history ,” said Obama, flanked by Vice President Biden and Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, in remarks at the White House. “It reflects the lessons that we’ve learned since 9/11, lessons that need to guide our nation going forward.”

But Obama’s blueprint, which provided some detail to earlier White House plans to move up to 60 prisoners to the mainland United States for trial or detention,was met with immediate condemnation from Capitol Hill.

Previewing the plan earlier in the morning, officials said the document submitted to Congress outlined costs associated with housing prisoners in facilities within the United States. Officials said 30 to 60 detainees were expected to be brought to U.S. facilities if the plan is approved. Some of them would continue through slow-moving military commissions; others probably would be detained indefinitely without trial.

The Obama administration also is resettling overseas other prisoners, who are deemed to pose little security risk. Since he took office in 2009, Obama has resettled 147 Guantanamo prisoners overseas.

The prison now houses 91 detainees, down from a high of nearly 800 under former President George. W. Bush. Of those remaining, 35 have been cleared for transfer to allied nations. Ten are in some stage of a military trial process.

But Obama cannot act without support from Congress. To allow the closure plan to move forward, lawmakers would have to alter current laws that prohibit the administration from spending any money on bringing detainees to the United States.


Source: The Washington Post, Missy Ryan and Adam Goldman, February 23, 2016

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