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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…

U.S. Supreme Court rejects Alabama's request to vacate Vernon Madison's stay of execution

Vernon Madison
Vernon Madison
BREAKING: U.S. Supreme Court in 4-4 vote rejects Alabama's request to vacate Vernon Madison's stay of execution, meaning that Mr. Madison will not be executed as scheduled tonight.

The United States Supreme Court has upheld a lower court's order staying the execution of Alabama death row inmate Vernon Madison.

This morning, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals postponed the execution, which was scheduled to take place today.

EJI lawyers asked the court to stay Mr. Madison's execution because he is incompetent to be executed. 

As a result of multiple strokes over the last year, and other serious medical conditions, Mr. Madison suffers from vascular dementia, which has left him unable to rationally understand why the State is seeking to execute him. 

Mr. Madison now speaks in a slurred manner, is legally blind, and can no longer walk independently as a consequence of damage to his brain.

It is unconstitutional to execute an individual who is mentally incompetent. The Eleventh Circuit ordered a stay so that it could properly consider the claim that his execution would violate the constitution.

The State of Alabama asked the Supreme Court to overturn the Eleventh Circuit's order, but the Court instead upheld the lower court's order.

Source: EJI, May 12, 2016

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