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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…

Governor to push for return of New Mexico death penalty

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez
Gov. Bill Richardson signed legislation in 2009 repealing capital punishment and replacing it with a maximum sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole

SANTA FE – In the aftermath of the recent shooting death of a Hatch police officer, Gov. Susana Martinez said Wednesday she will push during next year’s 60-day legislative session to reinstate New Mexico’s death penalty – at the least for child-killers and those convicted of murdering law enforcement officers.

Martinez, a former prosecutor, backed legislation to reimpose the death penalty immediately after taking office in 2011, but the proposal stalled that year in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, and the issue has not been part of the governor’s agenda in recent years.

In a statement Wednesday, the two-term Republican governor told the Journal, “A society that fails to adequately protect and defend those who protect all of us is a society that will be undone and unsafe.

“People need to ask themselves, if the man who ambushed and killed five police officers in Dallas had lived, would he deserve the ultimate penalty? How about the heartless violent criminals who killed Officer Jose Chavez in Hatch and left his children without their brave and selfless dad? Do they deserve the ultimate penalty? Absolutely.”

Nationally, there’s been a movement away from the death penalty in recent years. Nineteen states, including New Mexico, currently do not have death penalty laws on their books, and four states – Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland and Nebraska – have abolished capitol punishment in the past five years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, called Wednesday’s announcement politically driven and unwise, given a looming state budget shortfall.

“If she truly believes the death penalty is good public policy, then she should attach an appropriation to (the bill) and we can have a debate on that,” Maestas said of Martinez.

The governor’s announcement that she will renew her push to reinstate capital punishment comes less than a week after Hatch police officer Jose Chavez was shot and killed after making a traffic stop.

Jesse Hanes, a fugitive from Ohio, has been charged with murder in connection with Chavez’s death. He also faces federal firearms charges. He was traveling with an accomplice on a cross-country trip funded by robbing banks and selling methamphetamine at the time their vehicle was pulled over, prosecutors have alleged.

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Source: Albuquerque Journal, Dan Boyd, August 17, 2016

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