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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…

Dylann Roof challenges federal death penalty law as unconstitutional

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Lawyers for Dylann Roof, the accused Charleston church shooter, filed a motion to challenge the constitutionality of the federal death penalty Monday.

Roof's lawyers argue that "the federal death penalty constitutes a legally prohibited, arbitrary, cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by both the Fifth and Eighth Amendments."

They continue to argue that the death penalty itself is unconstitutional in addition to the federal law:

The Federal Death Penalty Act "may have been designed with as much care as possible under the circumstances, the capital sentencing process that the statute provides is constitutionally inadequate in practice. The results of jurors' good-faith grappling with the law - arbitrary, biased, and erroneous death verdicts - are intolerable as a matter of due process and proportional punishment."

Roof faces 33 federal counts, including hate crimes, in the shooting deaths of nine black parishioners during a Bible study. 

His penalty trial is set to begin in November.

The challenge is being brought because the federal government is seeking the death penalty in the case after rejecting Roof's offer to plead guilty and accept multiple sentences of life in prison without the opportunity for parole, Buzzfeed reports.

Sources: The Dallas Morning News, Hannah Wise; The Associated Press, August 1, 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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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning