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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…

Bombay High Court reduces death penalty to life imprisonment of youth who raped and murdered his 4-year-old niece

Mumbai, India
Mumbai, India
The Bombay High Court on Monday commuted the death sentence of a 21-year-old youth who was sentenced death penalty for raping and murdering his four-year-old niece in 2012 at Sangli. The court thus sentenced the accused to suffer life imprisonment for both the charges which would run consecutively.

A division bench of justices VK Tahilramani and AS Gadkari reduced the sentence of Vithal Atugade who is lodged in prison ever since his arrest in 2012. The court while reducing the sentenced accepted the defense advocate Abhay Apte's argument that the accused was of tender age and belonged to an economically weaker section of the society.

Public prosecutor Geeta Mulekar said the accused was the first cousin of the victim's mother. On the day of the offence he told the victim's mother that he was going to a saloon and taking her with him. Then he took her to a secluded place and raped her.

The mother of the victim lodged a missing complaint with the police and informed that the victim was last seen with the accused. Based on which the accused came to be arrested two days after and during interrogation he confessed to have committed the crime. He also showed the place of the burial, police exhumed the body and the victim was identified through her clothes and ornaments.

During the trial, the prosecution examined 23 witnesses to bring home the guilt of the accused and based on the testimony of the witnesses and the medical evidence the sessions court in Sangli handed down the death penalty to the accused. This came to be challenged by the accused in the high court and the state also moved the court for confirming the death sentence.

Apte said the court has accepted my argument that the incident was not premeditated and considered the young age as a strong mitigating circumstance to reduce the sentence from death to life imprisonment.

Source: DNA India, March 15, 2016

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