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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 legislature approves bill reimplimenting electric chair

The Virginia General Assembly on Friday approved a bill [HB 815 materials] that will allow for the implementation of the electric chair if lethal injection drugs are not readily available. 

Virginia has faced issues with obtaining lethal injection drugs as some pharmaceutical companies have declined to supply the necessary materials. 

According to the new bill, the Virginia Department of Corrections must make "reasonable efforts" to obtain lethal injection materials before utilizing the electric chair. 

The bill will now be sent to Governor Terry McAuliffe desk to be signed or vetoed. 

Currently, Virgina has 7 inmates on death row.

Capital punishment remains a controversial issue in the US and worldwide. 

In February the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit rejected a Georgia death row inmate's legal challenge to the death penalty. In January Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood stated that he plans to ask lawmakers to approve the firing squad, electrocution or nitrogen gas as alternate methods of execution if the state prohibits lethal injection. 

The US Supreme Court in January ruled in Kansas v. Carr that a jury in a death penalty case does not need to be advised that mitigating factors, which can lessen the severity of a criminal act, do not need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt like aggravating factors.

Source: The Jurist, March 14, 2016

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