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

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…

Nebraska: Touring anti-death penalty speakers include relatives of murder victims, death-row exonerees

Relatives of murder victims, death-row exonerees, and family members of the executed will speak at a series of public meetings about why they oppose the death penalty.

The meetings will be held in Omaha, Lincoln and across Nebraska.

Journey of Hope will start its speaking tour at 10 a.m. Sunday at St. Benedict Catholic Church in Omaha. It will make 6 additional appearances in Omaha along with about 20 more in Lincoln, Grand Island, North Platte, Norfolk, Columbus, Scottsbluff and other communities.

Some locations also will feature film screenings.

Nebraskans For Alternatives to the Death Penalty invited the group as part of a public eduction campaign in the group's effort to keep capital punishment off of the books.

State lawmakers repealed the death penalty in 2015, making Nebraska the 1st conservative state to end capital punishment since North Dakota in 1973. Death penalty supporters have since collected enough signatures to allow voters to decide in November if the repeal should be overturned.

Among the 10 speakers on the tour:

--Derrick Jamison, who was removed from Ohio's death row in 2005 after the courts ruled he was convicted through false testimony and official misconduct.

--Marietta Jaeger-Lane of Three Folks, Montana, whose 7-year-old daughter Susie was kidnapped and murdered by a serial killer in 1973. When the killer later called to taunt the mother, Jaeger-Lane disarmed him by saying she was praying for his healing. The phone call led to his arrest and conviction, and Jaeger-Lane has remained an advocate for forgiveness.

--George White, who, along with his wife, was repeatedly shot during a 1985 robbery in Coffee County, Alabama. Despite White's wounds, authorities said he staged the robbery. White was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1987. The conviction was set aside in 1989 after an appellate court found serious errors by the trial judge. But charges were not dismissed until 1992, when White's attorney discovered a witness who had seen a man fleeing the business where the robbery occurred.

For a full list of speakers, times and locations, go to nadp.net.

Source: Omaha World-Herald, July 13, 2016

Anti-death penalty group airing ad across Nebraska

The effort to keep the death penalty out of Nebraska will include a former U.S. Marine.

Kirk Bloodsworth is featured in a new ad paid for by Retain a Just Nebraska.

Ryan Horn, media strategist, says Bloodsworth was wrongfully convicted of rape and murder, and sentenced to death.

"Law enforcement, our criminal justice system are made up of thousands of wonderful people who work very hard and do their very best, and sometimes they make mistakes," Horn tells Nebraska Radio Network. "And if you're going to make a mistake, the state cannot kill someone because of a mistake. We can't let that happen."

Bloodsworth was eventually freed after DNA testing cleared him of the crime.

The ads are running on television and radio across Nebraska before a vote this fall on whether to bring back the death penalty or keep it repealed.

Horn says if it can happen to someone like Bloodsworth, it can happen to anyone.

"This guy was an honorably discharged Marine. He'd never been in trouble with the law before. He had a good job. This wasn't some gangbanger who had committed crimes before and maybe just got caught in the wrong one - not at all," Horn says. "This happens to people. It can happen to people."

Horn says other ads will run between now and the November election.

Source: nebraskaradionetwork.com, July 10, 2016

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