In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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…

Australia insists alleged cyanide-coffee murderer will not face death penalty

Jakarta: Australia insists an Australian permanent resident charged with murdering her friend with cyanide-laced coffee will not face the death penalty in Indonesia if found guilty, despite police now claiming it is up to the judges.

Jessica Kumala Wongso, a former Ambulance NSW employee, has been charged with the premeditated murder of her friend Wayan Mirna Salihin, with whom she had studied in Australia.

The allegations that Ms Wongso spiked her friend's Vietnamese iced coffee at an upmarket cafe in Jakarta have gripped Indonesia, with TV talk shows endlessly debating the likelihood of her guilt.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan agreed to allow the Australian Federal Police to assist with investigating the case after receiving an assurance that the death penalty would neither be sought or carried out.

"After the guarantee, approval was given and now we have started cooperating with the AFP," Jakarta police chief detective Krishna Murti told Fairfax Media in February.

Last week prosecutors finally announced the case would proceed to trial after the case dossier had been returned to police at least four times due to a lack of evidence.

Jakarta police spokesman Awi Setiyono said it would be up to the judges what punishment would be imposed if Ms Wongso was found guilty, with the death penalty the maximum sentence for premeditated murder.

Asked about Indonesia's agreement with Australia that the death penalty would not be invoked, Mr Awi said: "It is impossible to give such a guarantee because no one can intervene with the judges."

When Fairfax Media told Mr Awi that chief detective Krishna said the Indonesian Attorney-General's office had guaranteed the death penalty would not be sought, Mr Awi said: "Even the president cannot say that, let alone Krishna Murti. Look, it is not certain that she will get the death penalty, the trial hasn't even started. Just wait and we will see what the judges decide."

However Fairfax Media understands the Australian government has a ministerial-level, written undertaking that Ms Wongso will not face the death penalty.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald, Jewel Topsfield and Karuni Rompies, May 30, 2016

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