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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…

Virginia: Ricky Gray's execution put on hold until Supreme Court weighs in

Ricky Gray
Ricky Gray
RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Convicted murderer Ricky Gray's execution is now on hold so the Supreme Court can weigh in on his case.

An order filed in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday put the March 16 execution on hold until the Supreme Court could decide whether to intervene.

Gray was sentenced to death in connection with the 2006 New Year’s Day quadruple murders of the Harvey family in Richmond. 

In December, he petitioned to have his death penalty case reviewed by all 15 federal appeals court judges in Richmond. He remains housed on death row at Sussex I State Prison.

Along with the legal maneuvering are concerns Virginia does not currently have all the drugs needed for a lethal injection. 

The Department of Corrections says it does not have the first drug needed, which can be Midazolam or Pentobarbital or Thiopental Sodium. 

Gray does have the option to select electrocution instead.

He was set to be executed at Greensville Correctional Center. At least six citizens who are not Department of Correction employees must be present during an execution, with the method of death chosen by the inmate.

Alfredo R. Prieto was the last inmate put to death in Virginia, on Oct. 1, 2015.

During that time, state officials had to acquire the lethal injection drugs from Texas. Jason Clark, the Director of Public Information with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, stated there are no plans to provide lethal injection drugs to Virginia.

Clark pointed out that in 2013 the Virginia Department of Corrections gave his agency pentobarbital to use as a backup drug in an execution. His agency was approached in 2015 by Virginia officials and the Texas Department of Criminal Justice reciprocated, giving them three vials of pentobarbital.

According to the most recent reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, a death row inmate waits an average of 137 months between sentencing and execution. Since 1977, Virginia has had 110 executions. 79 of those were done by lethal injection, 31 by electrocution. Under state law, the inmate must request electrocution, and can do so up until 15 days before the execution date.

Gray's death sentence was specifically for the murders of Stella and Ruby Harvey, daughters of Bryan and Kathryn Harvey, who were also killed with the help of Ray Dandridge. A week later, Percyell Tucker, his wife Mary and their daughter, Ashley Baskerville, who was an accomplice in the Harveys' murder, were also killed.

Dandridge is serving a life sentence.

Source: WWBT NBC12, Feb. 26, 2016

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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning