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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…

SC: Johnny Bennett, sentenced to death by an all-white jury despite undisputed evidence of racial bias

Johnny Bennett
Johnny Bennett
Columbia, S.C. - Below is a brief (4'12") film which illuminates the shocking racial injustice that permeates the capital sentencing system in the state of South Carolina and highlights those injustices specifically in the case of death row inmate Johnny Bennett.

On June 15th, 2016, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson appealed a decision granting a new sentencing hearing to Justice 360 client Johnny Bennett.

Wilson appealed despite undisputed evidence that racial bias infected the decision to sentence Mr. Bennett to death in 2000.

Mr. Bennett, who is African American, was sentenced to death by an all-white jury in Lexington County, South Carolina.

A juror who sentenced Mr. Bennett to death referred to Mr. Bennett as “just a dumb nigger.” At the sentencing hearing, Solicitor Donald Myers made numerous inflammatory references to Bennett’s race, calling him “King Kong,” a “caveman,” a “beast of burden,” and elicited other racially charged testimony in pursuit of a death sentence.

Myers also intentionally told the jury that Mr. Bennett previously had a white girlfriend, a fact completely irrelevant to the case.

Justice 360 is disappointed that Wilson has decided to defend such blatant racism and continues to relentlessly defend the racist actions that so many in the Palmetto State are striving to lay to rest.

The public and elected leaders in South Carolina have demonstrated that we are ready to put the racist relics of our past behind us, yet Attorney General Wilson continues to defend continued racism in the criminal justice system.

Source: Justice 360, July 7, 2016





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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning