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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…

Myuran Sukumaran’s mother begs Indonesian President to call off next round of executions

Chinthu, the brother of Myuran Sukumaran, and his mother Raji make a heartfelt speech during the Bali Nine ringleader’s funeral.
Chinthu, the brother of Myuran Sukumaran, and his mother Raji make
a heartfelt speech during the Bali Nine ringleader’s funeral in May 2015.
RAJI Sukumaran, the mother of Myuran Sukumaran who was executed in Indonesia last year, has penned a moving letter to the Indonesian President, asking him to show mercy and courage and call off the country’s next round of executions.

Indonesia is preparing to execute up to 16 death row prisoners within days – the first executions since Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were among eight prisoners shot by firing squads in April last year.

Human Rights bodies have decried the imminent executions, saying many of those to be killed were not even given fair trials, were tortured into confession and denied legal representation and protests are planned at Indonesian consulates in Australia this week.

Raji Sukumaran told News Corp Australia today through tears that she is now reliving the helplessness and despair of losing her son and called on President Joko Widodo to consider his legacy when he is no longer in power. And she has appealed to him as a father and grandfather.

In her letter to the President Mrs Sukumaran tells Jokowi, as he is known, he is the only person with the power to prevent another execution.

“I can’t believe you would want to see mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children and grandparents grieving for their loved ones. Please don’t let those families go through what we have gone through. As a father and now a grandfather you would understand how much love you have for them, no matter their mistakes. You want to protect them but you feel so helpless. I hope you understand the desperation, anxiety, hurt and the burden you will inflict on to the families of the people you send to their death,” Mrs Sukumaran writes in her letter.

“I pray you find the courage to show mercy, as one day you will no longer have the power and will be looking back at your choices and your mistakes and the decisions you have taken.”

Mrs Sukumaran says her son was taken from her brutally last year, executed in the most horrible way, and she begs mercy for those who are set to be shot dead, as early as Thursday or Friday this week.

“Please do not kill these men and women. They are someone’s son, daughter, father, mother, sister, brother, friend. I can’t help but think of the last days I had with my son as we struggled to say goodbye.”

Mrs Sukumaran recalls that even after her son was given 72 hours to live she did not believe the President would be so cruel as to kill them.

“I have been reading my son’s journals which he had kept for the last ten years in prison. Myu was so sorry, he had so much regret and wanted to do better and make up for his mistakes,” Mrs Sukumaran says in her letter, describing the rehabilitation programs he set up in Bali’s Kerobokan jail and the prisoners whose lives he helped turn around.

Myuran Sukumaran in Bali's Kerobokan prison
Myuran Sukumaran in Bali's Kerobokan prison 
“Many prisoners looked to him for support. He had already served ten years in prison and he would have happily served the rest of his life helping so many more people.”

Mrs Sukumaran tells of her heartache, of all the things she wishes she could talk to her eldest child about now and of how scared and sad the family was in the final days before he was taken from them.

The two Australians were executed in the early hours of April 29 last year in a clearing on the prison island of Nusa Kambangan, off the coast of Central Java.

More than 1000 police and security officials have now descended on the same place for the executions which are expected in the early hours of Friday morning this week.

Those to be executed are understood to include Nigerians, Chinese, a Pakistani, South African and Indonesians – all from countries which implement the death penalty themselves. Amnesty International today warned that the President would be putting his Government on the wrong side of history by proceeding with the executions.

“President Widodo’s era was supposed to represent a new start for human rights in Indonesia. Sadly, he could preside over the highest number of executions in the country’s democratic era at a time when most of the world has turned its back on this cruel practice,” Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for South East Asia and the Pacific, said today.

Source: news.au.com, July 27, 2016

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