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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…

Texas: Gustavo Garcia set for execution

Gustavo Garcia in 1992
Gustavo Garcia in 1992
A Plano man is set to be executed Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his latest - and likely final - appeal.

In December 1990, then-19-year-old Gustavo Garcia shot and killed store clerk Craig Turski, according to police. He confessed to the crime after being arrested in connection to the murder of another store clerk the following month.

Police found Garcia hiding inside a store cooler after his friend, Christopher Vargas, 15, shot and killed Gregory Marin, 18. Garcia was charged in that case but never tried.

Garcia's attorneys have long contended that his written confession should have been thrown out because it did not include language that he had "knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily" waived his right to remain silent.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his conviction in 1994, only to reinstate it during a follow-up hearing.

In 1998, Garcia joined 6 other inmates in a daring prison escape attempt. Garcia surrendered before making it off prison grounds.

Garcia was given a new sentencing hearing in 2000 after a chief psychologist with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice testified that being Hispanic made him a threat.

Garcia received another death sentence in 2001.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear Garcia's latest appeal. It then refused to revisit that decision Wednesday.

Garcia will be the 3rd Texan executed this year, and the 1st one from Collin County since 2010. He will be just the 7th Collin County man executed since Texas resumed the death penalty in 1982, according to officials.

Source: starlocalmedia.com, Feb. 13, 2016

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