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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 not about to replace death penalty with life imprisonment: Ma

President Ma Ying-jeou
President Ma Ying-jeou
President Ma Ying-jeou said Monday that although some countries in the world have replaced the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole, Taiwan is not thinking of following suit.

The president was responding to a question on the death penalty issue, during a news conference on the release of the second national report on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

According to Ma, replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without possibility of parole has given rise to many problems.

For example, the public might find it hard to accept the idea of the country providing lifelong support for people convicted of serious crimes, he said, adding that prison population management can be another problem.

Furthermore, putting criminals in prison for the rest of their lives is no less harmful to human rights than executing them, Ma said.

Based on these reasons, the Ministry of Justice is not considering replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without parole, he added.

He said the government's current policy is to keep the death penalty but use it judiciously.

Over the past 20 years, Taiwan has abolished all the laws that prescribed the death sentence as the sole penalty and has been reviewing those laws that maintain it as an optional penalty, Ma noted.

Judges and prosecutors have also been very cautious in handling cases in which the death penalty is applicable, he said.

As a result, Ma said, the number of people sentenced to death has dropped to 6 per year on average from a high of 18 per year in the past.

People in Taiwan cannot yet accept the idea of removing the death penalty from the law books, the president said, adding that abolition of capital punishment is not yet a global trend either.

Although the United Nations has adopted several resolutions calling on states that maintain the death penalty to establish a moratorium on its use, the countries that retain capital punishment still account for 60 % of the world's population, Ma said.

Source: focustaiwan.tw, April 25, 2016

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