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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…

Malaysia: Why the rush to execute three last Friday?

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hindraf Makkal Sakthi, an ad hoc apolitical human rights movement, has urged the government to put in place a moratorium for all pending executions until it introduces a Bill in Parliament to abolish capital punishment in totality. "This has been assured by the de facto Law Minister and the Attorney-General."

Hindraf Chairman P. Waythamoorthy was expressing shock over the execution of 3 individuals by the authorities on Friday morning and condemned it. "The hastiness in the execution of these 3 individuals raises many questions."

"It was arbitrary. It was an uninformed method of execution by the Prisons Department."

Waytha, a human rights advocate and senior lawyer in private practice, could not understand why there was a rush to execute the 3 individuals. "They were only sentenced in 2011 and their Federal Court appeal was dismissed in 2014, not so long ago."

The Hindraf Chief pointed out that there are currently over 1,022 persons on death row and the Prisons Department had stated, according to the Death Penalty Worldwide Report, that no execution had been carried out since 2013. "More than 50 % of these estimated 1,022 persons facing the gallows have been waiting for their execution for more than 5 years."

Hence, he said, Hindraf was perplexed why the three individuals were "specifically targeted" for execution. "We can question the criteria used by the authorities to select who should be hanged."

Again, he argued, the decision by the authorities was wrong and conflicts with the statements and indications given out to the public by the government, more recently by the de facto Law Minister and the Attorney-General.

He reiterated that it was therefore shocking the government apparatus was going against its intentions by executing the 3 individuals hastily, more so when they have only recently exhausted their final appeal.

He has been left wondering what the real intentions were in executing the trio "hastily". "There could be other motives behind this."

Waytha referred to several statements from the government on capital punishment.

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department and de facto Law Minister, Nancy Shukri, was reported by The Star Online on 17 November 2015 as saying that the government intends to abolish the mandatory death sentence, in particular for drug related offences, and said that punishment should be left to the discretion of the Judge. The amendments to the law was supposed to be tabled at the next sitting in March 2016.

In the same statement, the de facto Law Minister also said she does not believe that death sentences are effective in curbing crime. She added that "we need to find other ways like education, motivation or something else".

Earlier, on 13 November 2015, Attorney-General Mohd Apandi Ali said he would propose to the Cabinet that the mandatory death penalty be scrapped. He said mandatory death sentences were a "paradox" as it robbed judges of their discretion to impose sentences on convicted criminals.

These statements show that there's intention on the part of the government to abolish the death penalty, said Waytha who was briefly in the Federal Cabinet not so long ago and in the Senate.

Source: freemalaysiatoday.com, March 26, 2016

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