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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…

'An embarrassment that Malaysia practises death penalty': AI

Meth bust at a Malaysian airport
Meth bust at a Malaysian airport
It is an international embarrassment that Malaysia is 1 out of only 24 United Nations member states that still practises the death penalty, said Amnesty International Malaysia executive director Shamini Darshni.

"The recent triple executions cheapen suggestions by Attorney-General Apandi Ali and Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Nancy Shukri, who both agree that death penalty reforms are due."

Last year saw the highest number of executions carried out around the world in the last 25 years, according to Amnesty International.

According to Amnesty International's Death Sentences and Executions 2015 Report, at least 1,634 people were executed last year. This represented a 54% increase in the number of executions when compared with 2014.

Malaysia, the report noted, was among the 5 Commonwealth member states that executed convicts, apart from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Singapore.

Malaysia is also 1 of 13 retentionist countries - states which retain and use the death penalty for ordinary crimes - in Asia Pacific and 1 of the 12 countries which carried out executions last year.

The most recent executions were those of Gunasegar Pitchaymuthu, Ramesh Jayakumar and Sasivarnam Jayakumar in March.

The hangings drew flak from various quarters for the seeming secrecy of the executions and the near lack of notice given to their next of kin by the authorities.

Shamini repeated calls for an immediate moratorium on all death penalty cases so it would "not be used again".

"We are calling for a stop, not just on the death sentence for Sirul but for others as well."

She said this when asked whether Amnesty supported commuting the death sentence for Sirul Azhar Umar, the former police commando convicted of killing Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu.

Amnesty International, however, noted that some progress was made last year after Putrajaya announced legislative reforms to review the country's mandatory death penalty laws.

In Malaysia, the mandatory death penalty is handed down for certain drug offences, murder, use of firearms and treason.

Source: freemalaysiatoday.com, April 6, 2016

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