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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…

Florida Supreme Court halts Mark James Asay's execution

Mark James Asay
Mark James Asay
The Florida Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the execution of Mark James Asay, just hours after hearing oral arguments in his case.

Asay, convicted in 1987 of 2 Jacksonville murders, was scheduled to be executed March 17. But a January ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hurst vs. Florida threw the state's death penalty into chaos.

Arguing before the state court Wednesday morning, Asay's lawyer, Martin McClain, invoked Hurst, saying that the problems raised by the U.S. Supreme Court in its ruling directly relate to Asay's case.

Asay, like the other residents on Florida's death row in Raiford, Fla., was convicted of his crimes by a unanimous jury but sentenced to death by the judge on the jury's recommendation. The Hurst ruling said that the juries must make the final decision on death sentences.

McClain -- who was also the lawyer for Michael Ray Lambrix and successfully stayed his execution last month -- argued that suggests the jury's verdict should be unanimous. 

In Asay's case, the jury recommendation came on a 9-3 vote.

The Florida Supreme Court's unanimous ruling Wednesday doesn't say anything about the merits of Asay's case. It simply stops the execution, which was ordered by Gov. Rick Scott prior to the Hurst ruling.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, March 2, 2016

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