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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…

Ohio has 22 killers set for execution -- but no lethal drugs

Ohio has 22 convicted murderers scheduled for execution during the next 3 years - but no lethal-injection drugs with which to kill them.

The 2015 Capital Crimes Report, required annually by state law, was issued Friday by Attorney General Mike DeWine. The report lists the status of all capital punishment cases currently pending in state and federal courts.

What DeWine's report did not address is the lack of drugs to conduct executions. The state has been at a standstill since the last execution, of Dennis McGuire on Jan. 16, 2014, largely due to the unavailability of suitable lethal-injection drugs and court challenges.

That has not changed, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction confirmed Friday.

"DRC continues to seek all legal means to obtain the drugs necessary to carry out court-ordered executions," spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said. "This process has included multiple options."

The options include seeking drugs from local "compounding pharmacies," which mix drugs to user specifications. However, despite a promise of confidentiality from the state, no pharmacies stepped up to provide the lethal drugs.

The state also hired an attorney to negotiate drug purchases and made overtures to suppliers overseas. None of the efforts proved successful.

The next execution, of Ronald Phillips of Summit County, is set for Jan. 12, 2017. There are 21 others scheduled through 2019, including 3 from Franklin County: Alva Campbell (May 10, 2017), Warren Henness (Feb. 13, 2018) and Kareem Jackson (July 10, 2019).

Gov. John Kasich was forced to postpone executions several times because of the drug issue, resulting in what is now a nearly three-year backlog of inmates awaiting death.

DeWine's report said there were 53 executions between Feb. 19, 1999, and 2014. 19 death sentences were commuted, 27 inmates died before execution, 74 cases were set aside by court action and 8 were bypassed because of the limited intellectual disability of the condemned.

Just 1 death sentence was handed down in Ohio last year, the lowest number since 2009. As recently as 2010, there were 7 death sentences statewide, but the number has steadily declined as jurors increasingly opt for life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

The average age of the 53 men executed was about 46; 19 were black and 34 were white. They spent an average of 16.63 years on death row prior to execution.

The murderers who were executed killed 66 adults and 19 children, DeWine's report showed. There were 25 black and 56 white victims, split almost evenly between men and women.

Source: Columbus Dispatch, April 2, 2016

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