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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…

Cannes Festival entry focuses on Taiwan death penalty debate

A prize-winning Taiwanese film exploring the use of the death penalty will screen at the Cannes Film Festival later this month, adding to recent increased debate about the island's use of capital punishment.

Leon Lee's 23-minute film titled "The Day To Choose" puts its main character, a lawyer and strong opponent of the death penalty, in the difficult position of choosing how to punish the murderers of his wife.

Taiwan retains the death penalty despite calls to abolish it in line with international practice, but some have argued it is necessary in extreme cases such as the beheading of a four-year-old girl on a Taipei street in March.

Lee, a student in the German language department at Soochow University, developed the film with his producer Cheng Kuang-yu, based on a script that Cheng had long wanted to realize.

"What I really want to discuss in this short film is not only the issue of capital punishment, but how much a human will stick to (his or her ideals) when faced with adversity," Lee told Reuters on the set of the film.

The picture will screen in the short film corner at the prestigious annual Cannes festival in France on May 11-22 and has already won "Best Drama Short Film" at the 2016 Universe Multicultural Film Festival in California last month.

Source: Reuters, May 9, 2016

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