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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…

Bipartisan Push Launched to End Ohio's Death Penalty

Ohio has no executions scheduled for nine months, and the state has no drugs to carry out lethal injections.

So advocates are seizing the opportunity to lobby lawmakers on abandoning the death penalty entirely. And they came armed with some powerful weapons: people who were sentenced to die but who were freed after the charges against them were dismissed.

9 men sentenced to die in Ohio have been exonerated. Together, those men spent more than 200 years on Ohio's death row.

Derrick Jamison of Cincinnati spent 20 years under a death sentence for a murder he didn't commit. Since the charges against him were dismissed and he was released, he's been telling his story to inspire those working for an end to capital punishment.

"It's real hard. I lost 53 of my friends here in Ohio. I'm the 119th death-row exoneree in the United States. I'm the only survivor from Cincinnati, Ohio. I lost a lot of my friends I grew up with in Cincinnati.

"So it's real hard coming out and speaking about it night after night. It gets to you, but it's something you gotta do. It's something I got to do."

Another attempt to ban the death penalty

Democratic Rep. Nickie Antonio of Lakewood has proposed a death-penalty ban several times, but this time her bill is jointly sponsored with Republican Niraj Antani of Miamisburg near Dayton. Antonio says with no executions likely in the near future, now is the time to consider recalling the death penalty.

"We've not have been here exactly like this with two joint sponsors from both sides of the aisle. So I really believe this is the time to have the hearings, to talk about this forward movement that we need to have especially in this time of a moratorium."

Among those who addressed the activists before they set out to meet lawmakers was Republican Sen. Bill Seitz of Cincinnati. He told them he doesn't want to ban the death penalty, but he's proposed 2 laws that would make major changes.

"I'm not sure I'm quite where you are, but I'm very, very dedicated to 2 propositions. First, that we should do everything humanly possible to ensure that an innocent person is not subjected to death at the hands of the state."

And he said legislators must make sure Ohio does not execute those who were mentally ill at the time of their crimes.

The next scheduled execution

Ohio's next execution is set for January 2017. The state went to a single-drug execution method after a problematic execution in 2014, but the drug that that was approved for use is unavailable. And though a law was passed to encourage compounding pharmacies to make it, none have.

So unless the state finds a way to acquire the drug or changes the method of execution, there won't be any executions in the foreseeable future.

Source: WKSU news, April 12, 2016

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