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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…

McAuliffe: Keep drugs secret or death penalty ends in Virginia

Virginia's electric chair
Virginia's electric chair
RICHMOND — Horror stories about the electric chair led Gov. Terry McAuliffe to offer a choice to the General Assembly: go along with a proposal he says will make it easier to obtain lethal injection drugs or see an end to capital punishment in Virginia.

McAuliffe says he will veto General Assembly death penalty legislation if lawmakers reject his amendment that would strike out language making the electric chair the automatic method of execution if the state can't get compounds of several drugs it uses in lethal injections.

"If they do not accept my amendments, I want to be very clear, I will veto this legislation," McAuliffe said. "The veto of this legislation will halt capital punishment."

In the final rush of bill signings, vetoes and amendment proposals before a Sunday midnight deadline, McAuliffe also proposed major changes to the $40 million GO Virginia program he had backed, and that he and legislators had hailed as evidence of their ability to work together.

The death penalty legislation, and McAuliffe's amendments, were driven by the difficulties the state believes it could face getting compounds of the combinations of drugs it uses in executions.

The legislature's proposal was to say if those compounds were not available, the state would use the electric chair to put criminals to death.

"There is no justification for a bill which carries such horrific consequences," McAuliffe said. "We take a human being, we strap them into a chair and then we flood their bodies with 1,800 volts of electricity."

To keep lethal injection, the use of drugs to anesthetize and then put a criminal to death, as a viable option, McAuliffe wants to give the Department of Corrections legal authority to mix up the compounds of drugs itself, rather than trying to obtain them from reluctant suppliers.

His amendments also would keep the names of the suppliers of the drugs used in execution compounds secret.

Without that guarantee, the companies would not supply the drugs, he said.

McAuliffe said his proposal was a reasonable compromise.


Source: Daily Press, Dave Ress, April 11, 2016

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