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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…

Stop the hanging of paraplegic man Abdul Basit

Abdul Basit
Abdul Basit
How is it possible to hang a man who is paralysed from the waist down?

This is the grim question now in front of the Pakistani authorities – Abdul Basit is a paraplegic man who once again faces the prospect of being hanged in his wheelchair.

The stay of execution granted in January has now ended, and the Pakistani authorities may now be gearing up to go ahead with this cruel spectacle. But there is hope – the Pakistani authorities have tried to execute Basit three times in the last year, and each time we’ve succeeded in stopping it.

We have the law and the international community on our side. UN experts have already confirmed that this death sentence is illegal and should be commuted immediately. Now, it’s up to us to amplify this condemnation. We need to make sure the Pakistani authorities know that the cruelty of what they’re planning is plain for all to see, and that this execution is opposed by people all around the world.

President Mamnoon Hussain has the power to stop this cruel and illegal execution – can you email him now to help make sure he does the right thing?

Pakistan has the largest death row in the world, at over 8,000 people – and the authorities have hanged over 380 people since December 2014. Now that Basit’s stay of execution has ended, we don’t have a moment to lose if we’re going to make sure he’s not next.

"The last two stays [of execution] have given me a hint of hope that Mr. President acknowledges that I am a helpless paralyzed man who cannot even stand on my feet. I don’t know what will happen when my stay expires. I don't know if they will hang me or let me live." Abdul Basit

Pakistan's Supreme Court said that the execution must comply with prison procedure - but the rules contain no provisions for hanging prisoners in wheelchairs.

Yet after three last minute stays, the government has still not called a permanent halt to the execution, or even explained how it plans to kill this severely disabled man in a way that complies with its own rules.

We need to make sure the Pakistani authorities know that the cruelty of what they’re planning is plain for all to see, and that this execution is opposed by people all around the world.

President Mamnoon Hussain has the power to stop this cruel and illegal execution – can you email him now to help make sure he does the right thing?

It is hard to believe that the authorities are so determined to push ahead with this cruel spectacle that Basit is facing a fourth attempted hanging. As our team continues to challenge this execution in the courts, it is vital that as many of us as possible condemn this brutality – the more of us who speak out, the better chance we have of saving Basit’s life.


Thank you for all you do,

Maya Foa
Director of Reprieve’s Death Penalty Team, April 26, 2016

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