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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…

Nebraska AG admits even if voters bring back the death penalty he can’t predict when or if Nebraska could execute anyone

Nebraska: Gathering signatures against the repeal
Nebraska: Gathering signatures against the repeal
LINCOLN, NE – Republican State Senator Colby Coash said today that Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson’s statement that there is no way to know how long it would take for the Legislature to get the death penalty functioning again should voters approve bringing it back, is further proof there will never be another execution in Nebraska no matter what voters decide in November.

Last week, KFXL-Fox news caught up with Peterson at the Buffalo County Fair, and reported: “Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson says even if voters do vote to bring back the death penalty, it could still take quite awhile to enforce it.”

“Nebraska’s last execution was in 1997, just shy of 20 years ago. In those two decades, we’ve had enthusiastically pro-death penalty governors, attorney generals, and majorities in the Unicameral who have pledged to get our death machine up and running. Yet we’ve not been able to it make it happen, in our 19 years of trying, we’ve not been able to fix the system,” Coash said. “And there is no reason to think that will change, ever.”

“This was a driving force for the supermajority of Senators - 16 Republicans, 13 Democrats, and 1 Independent - who voted to end our death penalty system last year. We’ve all studied the issue and its history carefully. We have spent years and years attempting to find a constitutional execution method, and ‘fix’ the system. But it wasn’t possible,” Coash said.

Attorney General Peterson’s predecessor claimed a quick fix was coming 7 years ago:

“According to Attorney General Jon Bruning, executions could resume as quickly as one or two years from now.” May 29, 2009, 10/11 News

“That ‘one or two years’ has now become 7 years. In the last 57 years, here have only been 3 executions in Nebraska.”

“To his credit, Attorney General Peterson understands the hard reality of ever carrying out an execution again. One year ago, Gov. Pete Ricketts used state funds to spend $54,400 for the purchase of drugs from India; however, the Food and Drug Administration blocked the purchase. In May, pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced that it was blocking the use of all its drugs for lethal injections. All federally approved drugmakers in the U.S. whose medications could be used for executions have now put them off limits,” Coash noted.

“Voters should know they’re not voting to fix a system,” Coash said. “They’re voting to keep a system that hasn’t worked for 20 years and will continue to not work should the Legislature’s decision be reversed.”

Source: Retain a Just Nebraska, August 1, 2016. Retain a Just Nebraska is a public education campaign to urge the retention of LB 268, the Nebraska Legislature’s vote to end the death penalty. Supporters include fiscal conservatives, law enforcement officials, faith leaders, murder victims’ families, and Nebraskans from all walks of life. It is a statewide coalition conducting public education on the smart alternative of life in prison without parole, which protects society without the many problems of our death penalty system.

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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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