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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…

Former Indonesian president 'rejects' death penalty

Java Christian Church has prepared 10 coffins for prisoners sentenced to death and awaiting execution in Indonesia last year.
Java Christian Church has prepared 10 coffins for prisoners sentenced to death
and awaiting execution in Indonesia last year.
The third president of Indonesia has publicly revealed he opposes the death penalty as the country prepares for a third round of executions of drug offenders.

In a sign of growing dissent over capital punishment within Indonesia, former president Bacharuddin Jusuf Habibie said he had arrived at the conclusion that no man had the right to take someone's life.

"It is God's prerogative right," the 79-year-old, who ruled Indonesia following the fall of Suharto, said at the launch of the book Politik Hukuman Mati di Indonesia (The politics of the death penalty in Indonesia) in Jakarta.

"So if you ask: 'Habibie, what is your comment on capital punishment?' The answer is that I reject it."

Another round of executions will take place after the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in June, according to the Attorney-General's office.

The announcement followed weeks of febrile speculation that the end was imminent for up to 15 drug offenders on death row, as firing squads prepared on Indonesia's death island, Nusakambangan.

Last year, President Joko Widodo moved swiftly to execute 14 drug offenders – including Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan – citing a drug emergency.

The death penalty is widely supported in Indonesia, with media polls typically showing about 75 per cent approval.

Joko last week authorised judges to sentence child sex offenders to death following a national outcry over the gang rape of a 14-year-old girl in Sumatra.

Former Indonesian President Bacharuddin Habibie.
Former Indonesian President Bacharuddin Habibie.
But the anti death-penalty campaign is gaining momentum. Law and Human Rights Minister Yasonna Laoly and popular Jakarta governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, known better as Ahok, both oppose capital punishment.

Former Indonesian judge Professor Jimly Asshiddiqie told the book launch he regretted he had been unable to convince a fellow judge to abolish the death penalty in a landmark Constitutional Court case in 2007.

The case, brought by Sukumaran and Chan and others, claimed the death penalty was inconsistent with the guarantee of the right to life in the constitution.

Professor Asshiddiqie, who was chairman of the Constitutional Court at the time, said unfortunately the case came at a time when there was huge public anger about drugs in Indonesia.

He voted with the majority – six votes to three – to uphold the death penalty.

However he confessed to the book launch that he actually agreed with the dissenting judges who believed the death penalty was unconstitutional.


Source: stuff.co.nz, Sydney Morning Herald, Jewel Topsfield, June 1, 2016

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