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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…

Missouri ordered to reveal pharmacies that supplied its execution drugs

Judge rules in two-year lawsuit led by the Guardian that pharmacies are not part of execution team and thus not afforded protection from identification

The Missouri department of corrections has been ordered to release the names of the two pharmacies from which it bought lethal drugs used in executions, dealing a significant blow to the shroud of secrecy that has been thrown around the death penalty in the state and beyond.

The final judgment of the circuit court of Cole County heavily criticises the Missouri prisons service for knowingly violating its duty to inform the public about the way it conducts the death penalty.

The judge ruled that the pharmacies involved could not be counted as part of the execution team, and thus offered protection from identification, and that as a result the state had to divulge the details of how it obtained pentobarbital for use in the death chamber.

For the past two years a group of media outlets led by the Guardian has argued in the Missouri courts that under the state’s own freedom of information or “sunshine” laws, the department of corrections was obliged to disclose the source of its lethal injection drugs.

The Guardian, joined by the Associated Press and three prominent local news organizations – the Kansas City Star, the St Louis Post-Dispatch and the Springfield News-Leader – held that it was in the public interest that citizens were aware of how the ultimate punishment was being wielded in their name.

Judge Jon Beetem excoriated the department of corrections for refusing to hand over to the media plaintiffs key documents that identified the pharmacists involved.

The judge ruled that the DOC had “knowingly violated the sunshine law by refusing to disclose records that would reveal the suppliers of lethal injection drugs, because its refusal was based on an interpretation of Missouri statutes that was clearly contrary to law”.

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Source: The Guardian, Ed Pilkington, March 22, 2016

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