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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…

US Senate Votes Down 4 Measures Meant to Curb Gun Sales

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Monday failed to advance four separate measures aimed at curbing gun sales, the latest display of congressional inaction after a mass shooting.

Eight days after a gunman claiming allegiance to the Islamic State killed 49 people in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub, the Senate deadlocked, largely along party lines, on amendments to block people on the federal terrorism watch list from buying guns and to close loopholes in background check laws. 

Partisanship and the power of the gun lobby played a large role in the amendments’ failure. Democrats structured their bills in a way that was almost certain to repel Republicans, while Republicans responded with bills equally distasteful to Democrats.

Democrats vowed to hammer Republicans during the campaign this fall.

“Our constituents see a disturbing pattern of inaction,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic leader, said on the Senate floor on Monday. “Sadly, our efforts are blocked by the Republican Congress, who take their marching orders from the National Rifle Association.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, introduced one of the failed measures, which could have prevented anyone on the federal terrorism watch list and other terrorist databases from buying firearms or explosives. Democrats tried unsuccessfully to pass the measure after the shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in December.

The Obama administration, which has been pushing for a variety of new gun control legislation, vowed to press on.

“The view of the administration is that the American people should be engaged in the debate,” Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, said on Monday. “So the fact that this is something that is being actively debated and considered in the Senate does represent incremental progress.”

Donald J. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has largely supported the positions of most Republicans, who want to preserve gun rights. Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, has made her support for gun control a central tenet of her campaign.

The Senate measures seemed doomed almost as soon as they were offered. After the Sandy Hook massacre, a bipartisan background check measure failed, even though Democrats controlled the Senate. Democrats, now in the minority, replaced that measure with the amendment sponsored by Mr. Murphy, which would have expanded background checks to all gun sales except loans and gifts between family members. Republicans said it was too broad. And even Senator Jon Tester of Montana, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, voted against it.


Source: The New York Times, June 20, 2016

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