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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…

Iraq justice ministry announces execution of 22 convicts

Baghdad Iraq
Amnesty International has said that recent trials resulting in death sentences have been 'grossly unfair'

Iraq has executed 22 people over the past month who were convicted of terrorism and other crimes, the justice minister announced on Monday.

The ministry "carried out death sentences against 22 convicts condemned for crimes and terrorist acts," Justice Minister Haidar al-Zamili said in a statement.

It also quoted Zamili as saying that with the start of the Iraqi operation to retake the city of Fallujah from the Islamic State (IS) group, "we confirm ... that the ministry is continuing to carry out just punishment against terrorists."

Rights group Amnesty International said that Baghdad executed at least 26 people in 2015.

Iraq sentenced nearly 100 people to death within the first 2 months of 2016, the group said in a February report.

"The vast majority of the trials have been grossly unfair, with many of the defendants claiming to have been tortured into 'confessing' the crimes," James Lynch, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director said.

Amnesty called on the Iraqi leadership to stop ratifying executions and begin a process to abolish the death penalty.

Iraq has faced widespread criticism from diplomats, analysts and human rights groups who say that due to a flawed justice system, those being executed are not necessarily guilty of the crimes for which they were sentenced to die.

But the country has repeatedly defied such criticism and continues carrying out executions.

Source: Middle East Eye, May 25, 2016

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