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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…

Global executions reach 25-year high - Reprieve comment

The number of executions carried out globally last year rose to a 25-year high, a review of the global state of the death penalty has found.

According to new figures, 2015 saw a sharp rise in executions in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China and Iran, and a total of at least 1,634 people executed overall in the year. 

The report, from Amnesty International, follows the news this weekend that in Saudi Arabia, over 80 people have been executed in the country since the start of 2016 – setting the Kingdom on course to double its 2015 total this year.

The figures come ahead of a visit to Saudi Arabia by President Obama, expected to take place later this month. International human rights organization Reprieve, which assists juveniles and others facing execution the Kingdom, is urging the US government to use the trip to raise the cases of three juveniles - Ali al Nimr, Dawood al Marhoon and Abdullah al Zaher - who face execution after being arrested at protests.

Research by Reprieve late last year found that over 70% of those facing execution in Saudi Arabia were arrested for non-violent offences, including political protest, while reports of torture and forced ‘confessions’ were widespread.

The Amnesty report also follows concerns made yesterday by the UK’s Foreign Affairs Committee, over the UK government’s commitment to preventing human rights abuses abroad. In an interim report on the Foreign Office’s on the UK’s overseas human rights work, the FAC said that there was “plainly a perception” that the government had recently downgraded its commitment to the promotion of human rights.

Commenting, Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “The huge rise in executions in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Egypt is extremely troubling. The US and European countries must urgently speak out about these grave abuses by our allies - from mass trials and torture to death sentences handed down to political protesters and juveniles. When President Obama visits Saudi Arabia this month, he must challenge the Saudis on their appalling human rights record – and urgently press for the release of juveniles such as Ali al Nimr.”

Source: Reprieve, March 6, 2016

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