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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…

Saudi executes 4 for murder, including 3 brothers; 105 executed this year

Medieval and barbaric: Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Medieval and barbaric: Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Saudi authorities executed 4 citizens on Sunday convicted of killing 6 members of their tribe, the interior ministry said.

The killings took place due to a land dispute among members of the Quthami tribe, the ministry said in a statement on the official SPA news agency.

The 4, including 3 brothers, were executed in the western city of Taif, bringing to 105 the number of death sentences carried out in the kingdom this year.

Saudi Arabia's growing use of the death penalty has prompted Amnesty International to call for an "immediate" moratorium on the practice.

The kingdom imposes the death penalty for offences that include murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape, homosexuality and apostasy.

Most people executed are beheaded with a sword.

On Thursday, authorities carried out the 100th execution of the year.

"Saudi Arabia is speeding along in its dogged use of a cruel and inhuman punishment, mindless of justice and human rights," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa head Philip Luther.

"At this rate, the kingdom's executioners will soon match or exceed the number of people they put to death last year," he said.

Amnesty says the kingdom carried out at least 158 death sentences in 2015, making it the 3rd most prolific executioner after Iran and Pakistan.

Amnesty's figures do not include secretive China.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty once and for all," Luther said.

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, triggering a diplomatic crisis between the 2 arch-rivals.

Source: Middle East Eye, July 24, 2016


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

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