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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…

Sri Lanka: Nearly 190 death sentences commuted under present govt. moving to abolish death penalty

Sri Lanka
President Maithripala Sirisena has commuted 187 death sentences to life imprisonment on recommendations by an expert committee headed by retired Supreme Court judge Nimal E. Dissanayake.

The decision has been announced in the wake of protests demanding the implementation of the death penalty on the person convicted by the Negombo High Court for rape and murder of a 5-year old girl in the Kotadeniyawa police area in the Gampaha District.

Justice Ministry spokesperson Harsha B. Abeykoon told The Island that President Maithripala Sirisena had endorsed Dissanayake committee's recommendations on 3 separate occasions (Dec. 2015, Apr. 2016 and May 2016).

The previous government established the committee in Oct. 2013 to explore ways and means of overcoming severe difficulties caused by suspension of death penalty in accordance with an understanding with the European Union. The committee included Secretary to the Justice Ministry, additional Solicitor General and Prisons Commissioner.

The Prisons Department has made repeated representations in respect of nearly 1,200 convicts on death row.

Abeykoon said that the committee had inquired into cases of nearly 400 convicts on death row and recommended the abolition of death sentence.

Foreign Ministry sources told The Island that FM Mangala Samaraweera assured the Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council last September that Sri Lanka wouldn't implement the death penalty. He also said the government would abolish death penalty.

Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe told The Island yesterday that it would be a continuing process. Asked whether those on the death row, who had their death sentences commuted to life sentence, were eligible for release after serving 20 years behind bars, Minister Rajapakshe said that was a possibility. Minister Rajapakshe emphasised that death penalty had been converted to life sentence before the incumbent government came into being in January 2015.

Source: island.lk, May 28, 2016

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