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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…

Reprieve Australia: Abolishing the death penalty "well and truly on track"

Julian McMahon, President of Reprieve Australia
Julian McMahon, defence lawyer for Sukumaran and Chan,
President of Reprieve Australia.
It has been a year since Indonesia executed Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the leaders of the Bali Nine drug smuggling ring.

Barrister Julian McMahon (LLM 1998) worked as a defence lawyer for Sukumaran and Chan, who were executed by firing squad on Nusa Kambangan island on 29 April 2015.

McMahon, who has been recognised as 2016 Victorian Australian of the Year for his commitment to eradicating the death penalty, believes the case of Sukumaran and Chan led Australia to clarify its position on the world stage.

"As the first ten years of this century have shown, too often different leaders have wavered in that commitment to be opposed to the death penalty in difficult cases," says McMahon.

"Firstly, the case brought home the reality of an impending execution into the lounge rooms of Australia. Secondly, Myuran and Andrew were clearly rehabilitated in a good way. So the case was an easy one for anybody to support."

"Thirdly, we had both a foreign minister and a shadow foreign minister who were able to work closely and coherently together on this issue so Australia presented a very unified voice against a particular set of executions."

This confluence of factors led Australia to state coherently and firmly a clear objection to executions without qualification, something McMahon acknowledges as a vital development.

"In the last couple of years Australia has positioned itself as a country that is firmly against the death penalty internationally and no longer regards it as an issue only to be concerned about when it involves Australian citizens."

In May this year the Federal Government announced a plan to 'gag' Australian Federal Police from sharing intelligence about drug crimes that could lead to a death penalty sentence.

The bipartisan report comes after the AFP was heavily criticised for tipping off Indonesian authorities that led to the arrest of Sukumaran, Chan and other members of the Bali Nine.

It is the latest in a series of measures taken by the Federal Government in light of the executions of Sukumaran and Chan.

In May 2016, Parliament tabled a report on the steps it is taking to eradicate the death penalty worldwide.


Source: Monash University, James Pattison, May 23, 2016

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