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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…

Beijing Says AI Death Penalty Report Is Biased against China

A Chinese police officer lights an inmate's cigarette shortly before his execution.
A Chinese police officer lights an inmate's
cigarette shortly before his execution.
The Chinese government said Amnesty International has "biased opinions" on China and refused to comment on its death penalty report released on Wednesday, which estimates that "thousands" were executed in China last year.

Asked at a press conference about the AI report, spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry Lu Kang refused to comment and said AI tends to have biased opinions on China.

According to the human rights organization, the number of death penalty executions in 2015 at 1,634 were the highest in 25 years.

The global rise in the figure was attributed to 3 countries - Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan - who were responsible for 89 % of all the executions carried out in 2015, excluding China.

Data from the world's 2nd largest economy were not included as China considers this information to be a "State secret," although the AI report notes that "thousands of executions" were carried out in the Chinese territory.

AI Hong Kong's William Nee told EFE, AI asks governments across the world for information on capital punishment to prepare the report, and a "majority" responds to the request in "a professional manner."

"It is not a complicated task. It is completely hypocritical that China calls our report biased when it refuses to give us information and continues treating capital punishment figures as a State secret," he denounced.

Despite the lack of transparency, he said AI has "no doubt" that China is in top spot as the country with the highest number of executions in the world.

Source: Latin American Herald Tribune, April 7, 2016

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