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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…

Taiwan: Chang Ho-ling escapes execution

The High Court yesterday commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence handed down to Chang Ho-ling, who was convicted of the murder of his wife and 2 daughters in a case that has wound through the courts for 10 years.

The ruling has sparked controversy and protests from the victims' relatives and the judiciary, along with members of the public, who believe life imprisonment is too lenient.

Chang, now 49, was found guilty of using ether to asphyxiate his wife, Tsai Ting-yu, and their 2 young daughters at their home in New Taipei City in 2006, then tampering with the crime scene to make it look like suicide through gas poisoning. After a forensic investigation pointed to murder, Chang confessed.

Chang had been carrying on an extramarital affair with a woman surnamed Su, who reportedly advised Chang to do away with his wife and daughters to start a new life with her, and in an effort to please his new lover, Chang filmed the killing of his wife for Su to watch, the courts found.

As the case went through the courts, judges upheld the original ruling of 2 death sentences for Chang for the murders of his daughters and 1 life prison term for murdering his wife.

However, the latest ruling commuted the death sentence because judges said there remains a possibility of Chang's rehabilitation, citing a psychiatric report.

The mother of victim Tsai Ting-yu spoke out yesterday to condemn the judiciary.

"The judges were too lenient on Chang," she said. "Before, the ruling was always the death sentence. Now all of a sudden it has changed to a life sentence. We cannot accept it and we will appeal this decision."

She broke down in tears when talking to reporters.

"For 10 years, I have attended all the trial hearings. It has drained my mind and taken a toll on my failing health. I cry every day when I think about my daughter and my granddaughters. The sentencing was too lenient. The courts have not given us justice," she said.

Lin Hung-sung, the prosecutor who pursued the case and brought the charges against Chang, also said it was not right that Chang should escape the death penalty.

"I felt very bad today when I heard the ruling. Even I cannot accept it, so how can the victims' families accept this decision?" Lin said. "The ruling must be appealed so justice can be served."

Source: Taipei Times, April 29, 2016

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