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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…

Aussie sentenced to life for drug trafficking in Vietnam, escapes death penalty

Hanoi, Vietnam
A court in southern Vietnam has sentenced an Australian man to life in prison for drug trafficking.

Nathan Andrew James was convicted in a one-day trial by the People's Court in Ho Chi Minh City this week, a court official said Wednesday on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media.

James, 34, was arrested in October 2013 while checking into a flight to Australia after customs officials at the airport discovered 1.5 kilograms ( 3.3 pounds ) of heroin hidden in his luggage.

The indictment said James owed some money to a man named Tim, who offered to write off the debt if James agreed to take the heroin hidden in two suitcases from Vietnam to Australia.

James told the court that he had received the suitcases from the man, but denied that he knew heroin was hidden in them, an explanation that was rejected by the court, the official said.

James could have been sentenced to death, but the court took into consideration his history of mental disorders, she said.

The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement Wednesday that it has provided consular assistance to a man convicted in Vietnam. It did not name him.

That assistance included attending court proceedings and visiting him in prison. The statement gave no other details, citing privacy obligations.

Vietnam has one of the world's toughest drug laws, where trafficking 100 grams of heroin is punishable by death.

Source: The Associated Press, June 1, 2016

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