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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 kills Nigerian man in 95th execution of the year

Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Fahd Houssawi was put to death for murder of police officer as human rights groups raise concern over surge in executions

Saudi authorities have executed a Nigerian man after convicting him of murdering a police officer.

It was the 95th execution of the year in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, which imposes the death penalty for offences including murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape, homosexuality and apostasy. The surge in executions has drawn concern from human rights groups.

Fahd Houssawi was executed on Sunday in the western city of Taif, the interior ministry said in a statement carried by the official SPA news agency. He had been found guilty of strangling a policeman and beating him to death, the ministry said.

Amnesty International has warned that at the current rate Saudi Arabia could see more than 100 executions in the 1st half of 2016.

The London-based watchdog said the kingdom carried out at least 158 death sentences last year, making it the third most prolific executioner after Iran and Pakistan. Its figures do not include secretive China.

The executions this year are higher than at the same point last year, Amnesty said.

Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for "terrorism" offences on a single day in January.

They included prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr whose execution prompted Iranian protesters to torch Saudi diplomatic missions, triggering a severing of relations.

Source: The Guardian, May 29, 2016

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