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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…

Saudi Arabia beheads own citizen for murder; 94th execution this year

Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Riyadh, May 24: Saudi Arabia put to death a citizen convicted of murder today, bringing to 94 the number of executions in the kingdom this year.

Imad al-Assimi was found guilty of shooting dead a compatriot in a dispute, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by state news agency SPA.

Most people put to death in Saudi Arabia are beheaded with a sword. Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for “terrorism” on a single day in January.

According to human rights group Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia had the third-highest number of executions last year — at least 158.

That was far behind Pakistan which executed 326, and Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran, which executed at least 977, said Amnesty, whose figures exclude secretive China.

Rights activists have raised concerns about the fairness of trials in Saudi Arabia and have been particularly critical of the use of the death penalty for non-violent offences like drug trafficking.

The interior ministry has said it is “determined to fight drugs of all kinds due to the serious damage they do to individuals and society”.

Saudi Arabia has a strict Islamic legal code under which murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape, homosexuality and apostasy are all punishable by death.

Source: Agence France-Presse, May 24, 2016

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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning