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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…

Louisiana: Judge to decide if death-row inmates get air conditioning

Louisiana's death row
Louisiana's death row
A federal judge will decide whether to order a Louisiana prison to install air conditioning for inmates on death row, according to the Associated Press.

Prison officials at Louisiana State Penitentiary have for three years maintained that ice, fans and a cold shower are enough to protect the inmates from heat and humidity.

The request for air conditioning came from three death-row inmates with medical problems.

U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson on Friday questioned why prison officials won’t spent the $1 million to install air conditioning for death-row inmates, especially when the state has already spent more than that to fight it in court.

A hearing is scheduled for June 15 for testimony about the effectiveness of the heat-control measures.

Jackson ruled in 2013 that it is unconstitutional to keep inmates where the heat index exceeds 88 degrees. An appeals court in 2015 rules prisoners could get heat relief without air conditioning and the state crafted a “heat remediation plan” involving cold showers, fans and ice chests. Lawyers for the inmates say the plan isn’t working, though.

Temperatures this year have already exceeded the 99-degree threshold.

“One must wonder: Is this really what the state wants to do?” Jackson asked. “It just seems so unnecessary.”

Source: The Hill, Jessie Hellmann, May 21, 2016

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