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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…

UN human rights chief bucks capital punishment

UN building, NYC
The United Nations human rights chief is opposing the imposition of capital punishment in all circumstances, saying death penalty is "not an effective deterrent" to crime and does not protect people from drug abuse.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein was reacting to the execution of four convicted drug traffickers in Indonesia last Friday.

Convicted Filipina drug trafficker Mary Jane Veloso was spared because the Philippine government under former president Benigno Aquino III asked that she be allowed to testify against Maria Kristina Sergio, who allegedly recruited her and tricked her into smuggling 2.6 kg of heroin into Indonesia.

But the new Philippine administration under President Duterte has expressed conviction that death penalty can be used to stop illegal drug trade in the country.

Al Hussein said the focus of drug-related crime prevention should involve strengthening the justice system to make it more effective.

He also called on authorities of "the most prolific executioner" in Southeast Asia to immediately reinstate a moratorium on the death penalty.

"The increasing use of the death penalty in Indonesia is terribly worrying, and I urge the government to immediately end this practice which is unjust and incompatible with human rights," he said.

"I find it deeply disturbing that Indonesia has already executed 19 people since 2013, making it the most prolific executioner in Southeast Asia," he added.

Al Hussein noted that under international law, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which Indonesia has ratified, countries which have not abolished the death penalty may only use capital punishment for "the most serious crimes."

He pointed out that drug-related offenses do not fall under this threshold of "most serious crimes," which have been interpreted to mean only crimes involving intentional killing.

He said that while he acknowledges the challenges faced by Indonesia in combating drug-related crimes, the country's response must be rooted in international human rights law.

Philippines death penalty bill

Meanwhile, the death penalty bill in the House of Representatives faces rough sailing as opposition congressmen are determined to block its passage.

"We will fight tooth and nail any and all attempts to renew the death penalty and send us back to the medieval ages," Rep. Lito Atienza of party-list group Buhay said yesterday.

He said he and his pro-life colleagues would argue doggedly against any measure that seeks to re-impose capital punishment.

Another opposition lawmaker, Harry Roque of Kabayan, said he, like Atienza, is against the revival of the death penalty.

"What we need to do is to reform the criminal justice system," he said.

The 2 belong to the opposition bloc led by Minority Leader Danilo Suarez.

Ironically, Suarez is supporting President Duterte's proposal for re-imposition of the death penalty.

Source: Philippine Star, July 31, 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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