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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…

Judge's execution ruling leaves Arizona at crossroads in death penalty debate

Arizona will not be killing anyone by lethal injection anytime soon.

This comes as a result of 3 things:

1. A recent ruling by U.S. District Judge Neil Wake keeping all executions in Arizona on hold for an unspecified amount of time.

2. Pfizer, a pharmaceutical giant, recently announcing it would no longer supply prisons with 7 drugs used to impose the death penalty, including 1 used by Arizona, midazolam.

3. The fact that Arizona's supply of midazolam is set to expire on May 31.

Arizona's current protocol in executions calls for midazolam. This was used on July 23, 2014 when Arizona executed Joseph Wood - Arizona's last execution to date - which did not turn out as expected.

As a result of this "botched execution" (as many have termed it), a federal lawsuit was filed by 7 death row inmates and the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona demanding the state stop using the questionable drug cocktail and more transparency in the execution process.

As part of that lawsuit, Wake issued a moratorium on executions until investigations into the Wood execution could be completed.

Earlier this year, those investigations were completed and Wake ordered the lawsuit go forward.

Shortly after that ruling, Arizona requested Wake allow executions to go forward since its supply of midazolam was approaching its expiration date and that state has no way to replace that supply since manufacturers don't want their products used in executions. Not persuaded, Wake ruled Wednesday that the ban on executions will remain in place.

What is next for Arizona? Will the wild, wild west start using the firing squad? Not likely.

If Arizona wants to continue executing prisoners, I see a few options:

-- Return to the use of lethal gas (which carries its own difficulties)

-- Create a new protocol with a new drug combination, (which is costly and time-consuming)

-- Ask the Legislature and/or voters to approve a different technique to carry out executions (costly, time-consuming and not really practical)

The state could also move to get rid of the death penalty, which would be the easiest option, but would be costly and time-consuming process [How so? - DPN].

Regardless of which road Arizona chooses to head down, it will have to dedicate a fair amount of money and time to resolve this seemingly never-ending battle between those that believe in the death penalty and those that are opposed to it.

Source: Monica Lindstrom, KTAR news, May 20, 2016

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