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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…

South Korea Top Court OKs Soldier's Death Penalty Over Rampage

"Shooting rampages by bullied South Korean soldiers are not unusual."
South Korea's top court on Friday upheld a death penalty for a soldier convicted of killing five comrades in shooting and grenade attacks in a front-line army unit in 2014.

The verdict by the Supreme Court is final and cannot be appealed, a court official said, requesting anonymity because of department rules. The Defense Ministry said it confirmed the court's ruling.

The conscript, only identified by his surname Yim, had told investigators after his arrest that he assaulted fellow soldiers because he felt insulted by drawings they made of him. He had fled into the forest near the border with North Korea but was captured after a failed suicide attempt.

South Korean courts occasionally issue death sentences but the country has not executed anyone since December 1997. 

Yim has become the 61st person in South Korea on a death row, according to records from the Justice Ministry and the Defense Ministry.

South Korea requires all able-bodied men to serve in the military for about 2 years in the face of a threat from North Korea. 

Shooting rampages by bullied soldiers in South Korean army barracks are not unusual. In 2005, another soldier went on a similar rampage and killed 8 colleagues in anger at superiors who he said verbally abused him. He too was sentenced to death.

Such rampages raised serious questions about the discipline and readiness of South Korea's military, which faces North Korean troops across the world's most heavily fortified border. Confrontations between the rivals deepened recently following the North's nuclear test and long-range rocket launch.

Source: Associated Press, Feb. 19, 2016

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