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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…

Execution set for July 14 would be the 6th in Georgia this year

John Wayne Conner
John Wayne Conner
Conner was sentenced to die 34 years ago

John Wayne Conner was scheduled Friday to become the sixth man executed in Georgia this year - a record number since the death penalty was reinstated here 40 years ago.

The time for his lethal injection for the 1992 murder of a drinking buddy was set for 7 p.m. on July 14.

Conner's scheduled execution comes as the pace of executions in Georgia is increasing. Yet, death sentences are being rendered in Georgia murder trials less often.

At this time, Conner is the only death row inmate who has exhausted his appeals, though several others are nearing the end of legal recourse.

On Jan. 9, 198, Conner, Beverly Bates and J.T. White went to a party in Eastman, Ga., but when it was over they weren't ready to call it a night.

So they returned to Conner's house to keep drinking.

But Conner, then 26, and White, 29, needed more bourbon. They walked to a neighbor's house in hopes of getting a ride to the liquor store but the neighbor refused, so they started walking back to Conner's house.

On the way, Conner told investigators, White "made a statement about he would like to go to bed with my girlfriend and so I got mad and we got into a fight and fought all the way over to the oak tree and I hit him with a quart bottle."

White ran and Conner chased him. The fight continued in a ditch by the road.

"He was swinging, trying to get up, or swinging at me to try to hit me," Conner told investigators. "There was a stick right there ... and I grabbed it and went to beating him with it."

Conner left White for dead in a ditch and went home to wake Bates. He told her they had to leave town because he thought he had killed White.

But he also needed to make sure, so they drove back to the ditch where White and Conner had fought.

Bates told investigators she heard a thud moments after Conner disappeared into the woods. He came back to the car, telling her he was sure. "Let's go," he said.

Conner, now 60, and Bates were picked up the next day in Butts County, which is where Georgia's death row is located.

The last time Georgia carried out an execution was on April 27, when Daniel Anthony Lucas died by lethal injection 18 years and four days after he murdered Steven Moss and his 2 children in their Jones County home.

This year Georgia has also executed Joshua Bishop, Kenneth Fults, Travis Hittson and Brandon Astor Jones.

The only other time Georgia has put to death as many as 5 people in a year was in 1987.

Source: myajc.com, June 24, 2016

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