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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…

Connecticut: Komisarjevsky resentenced to life term

Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky
Steven Hayes and Joshua Komisarjevsky
NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) — A man condemned to die for killing a woman and her two daughters during a 2007 home invasion was resentenced Tuesday to life in prison without the possibility of release because the state abolished the death penalty.

A state judge in New Haven resentenced Joshua Komisarjevsky to six consecutive life terms.

He became the third Connecticut death row inmate to have his sentence changed to life in prison since the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled last year that the death penalty violated the state constitution's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Eight other condemned inmates await resentencing.

Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes were sentenced to death for killing Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters, 17-year-old Hayley and 11-year-old Michaela. Dr. William Petit Jr., Hawke-Petit's husband and the girls' father, was severely beaten but survived.

Hayes was resentenced last month to life in prison.

The Petit family chose not to attend the hearing Tuesday because they had nothing to add to their remarks at the first sentencing of Komisarjevsky in 2012, prosecutor Gary Nicholson said.

"July 23, 2007, was our personal holocaust," Dr. Petit said the day Komisarjevsky was sentenced to death. "A holocaust caused by two who are completely evil and actually do not comprehend what they have done."

Dr. Petit, now running for a seat in the state legislature, opposed abolition of Connecticut's death penalty.

Komisarjevsky's lawyers had worked to spare him the death penalty by describing sexual abuse he endured as a child. The jury and the judge — who had been subjected to grim evidence including pictures of charred beds, rope used to tie up the family and autopsy photos — were unmoved.

Komisarjevsky's appeal of his convictions remains pending.

The killings culminated hours of terror in the Petits' home in Cheshire, a suburb north of New Haven.

Komisarjevsky had followed Hawke-Petit and Michaela from a supermarket to their house. Komisarjevsky and Hayes returned to the Petit house in the middle of the night while the family was sleeping to rob it.

Dr. Petit was beaten and tied up in the basement. Michaela and Hayley were tied to their beds. In the morning, Hayes took Hawke-Petit to a bank to withdraw money. Komisarjevsky stayed at the house and sexually assaulted Michaela. Hayes was convicted of sexually assaulting the mother.

After Hayes and Hawke-Petit returned to the home, Hayes strangled her. Komisarjevsky and Hayes then doused the house and beds with gasoline, set it ablaze and fled. They were caught after crashing the Petits' car into police cruisers.

The sisters, bound while flames and fumes rose around them, died of smoke inhalation.

Dr. Petit survived after escaping the basement while the house was on fire.

Source: Republican American, July 26, 2016

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