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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…

What do Cubans think about the death penalty?

Cuba
"A majority of Cubans want the death penalty abolished."
At the beginning of July, Havana Times put forward a new initiative: to find out what Cubans think about different national and/or global issues. As far as we know, only the government and government institutions carry out surveys; the results of these are not normally very accessible to ordinary Cubans.

The aim of our project is to contribute towards public opinion surveys not being administered by a centralized body and that the results of these are made easily accessible to everyone. We kicked off this project with a simple survey where the person taking it didn't have to give any personal information; all they had to do was mark the option they believed to be correct with a cross.

We chose to begin with the death penalty, because it's a very sensitive and important issue when building a civilized country. In Cuba, capital punishment was abolished by the 1940 Constitution and was later reinstated in 1959; the last executions of this kind took place in 2003 and since then there has been a de facto moratorium, even though Raul Castro publicly reminded us that it still exists, 3 years ago.

The 1st question of the survey looked into whether the death penalty should remain or be abolished from our Penal Code.

A slight majority of 52% of those surveyed would like it to be abolished, 35% want this kind of punishment to apply to a more limited number of crimes and 13% stand up for it to stay in our Penal Code just as it is.

Among those who would like to get rid of the death penalty entirely, 17% believed this wasn't a corrective measure; 48% believed that it's a violation against out most basic individual human rights and 35% think that life sentences should be the maximum punishment given for any kind of crime.

Those who defend the death penalty believe that it's a necessary evil (16%); believe that it prevents serious crimes from being committed and ensures civil peace (24%); and the majority, (60%), think that Life Imprisonment is not enough to punish someone in extreme cases.

Who should decide whether the death penalty is abolished or remains in the Penal Code? 85% of those surveyed think that a public referendum is the best way to settle these kinds of issues; 4% believe that it's an issue that lawyers should agree on, and 11% trust that the government should be who decides.

Conclusions

From our survey's results, we can see that the majority want the death penalty to be abolished. However, this isn't a great majority, the difference is very small (52% against 48%) and this could change if we had surveyed a greater number of people.

The main argument used by those against the death penalty is that it denies the person being punished their most basic individual human rights.

Amongst those who defend the death penalty, the main justification given is that life imprisonment isn't enough for certain crimes.

The immense majority of those interviewed believe that this issue should be resolved by a popular referendum, before leaving it to be decided by judges or the government.

The sample taken for this investigation is not representative of the Cuban people because of its small scale and because of the bias that including only people who have access to an email address implies; a minority sector with certain socio-cultural characteristics. 

Nevertheless, we are happy with this survey because it's our 1st attempt to make this kind of very sensitive information accessible to Cubans. We hope that we are able to contribute a little to their emancipation in this way.

Source: Havana Times, July 28, 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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