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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…

Pakistani, Saudi executed in Saudi Arabia

Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: Saudi authorities executed two men on Tuesday, bringing to 98 the number of executions carried out in the ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom so far this year.

Pakistani Mohammed Mokhtar, who was convicted of heroin trafficking, was executed in the eastern city of Dammam, the ministry said.

Saudi citizen Ali Assiri, who was found guilty of stabbing a fellow tribesman to death, was executed in the southwestern region of Asir, the interior ministry said.

Saudi Arabia imposes the death penalty for offences including murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape, homosexuality and apostasy.

Most people executed are beheaded with a sword.

There were no beheadings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began in the kingdom on June 6.

However, executions resumed on Sunday when authorities put a Saudi murderer to death.

Human rights group Amnesty International says the kingdom carried out at least 158 death sentences last year, making it the third most prolific executioner after Iran and Pakistan.

Amnesty’s figures do not include secretive China.

The London-based watchdog says the Saudi rate of executions this year is “higher than at the same point last year”.

Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for “terrorism” offences on a single day in January.

They included prominent Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose execution prompted Iranian protesters to torch Saudi diplomatic missions, leading Riyadh to sever relations.

Source: Agence France-Presse, July 19, 2016


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