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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…

Scalia cast key vote in Oklahoma death penalty case

The late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was a reliable conservative vote on any number of topics the court took up during his 30-year tenure, including a case last year dealing with Oklahoma's death penalty.

Scalia died Saturday at a ranch resort in west Texas, the San Antonio Express News reports.

In 2015, Scalia was 1 of 5 justices who sided with Oklahoma in Glossip v. Gross, in which attorneys for three Oklahoma death row inmates argued that the sedative the state used in its execution protocol could lead to an unconstitutional level of pain before death.

The court rejected that argument by a 5-4 vote. 

Writing in a concurrent opinion, Scalia was characteristically colorful, taking Justice Stephen Breyer to task for arguing that capital punishment ought to be ended entirely. 

Breyer's dissenting opinion was, Scalia wrote, "full of internal contradictions and (it must be said) gobbledy-gook."

"A vocal minority of the Court, waving over their heads a ream of the most recent abolitionist studies (a superabundant genre) as though they have discovered the lost folios of Shakespeare, insist that now, at long last, the death penalty must be abolished for good. Mind you, not once in the history of the American republic has this Court ever suggested that the death penalty is categorically impermissible."

Source: The Oklahoman, Feb. 14, 2016

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