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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’s Attorneys Argue Death Penalty Clashes With Religious Freedoms Of Prospective Jurors

The parking lot behind the AME Emanuel Church, Charleston.
The parking lot behind the AME Emanuel Church, Charleston.
Attorneys for the accused Charleston church shooter argue that forcing potential jurors to say they would impose the death penalty violates their religious freedoms.

Attorneys for the man accused of killing nine black members of a historic South Carolina church expanded their argument opposing the death penalty on Monday, asserting it violates the religious freedoms of prospective jurors.

The attorneys for Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof argue that asking potential jurors to state they are capable of imposing a death sentence “cannot be justified as having a legitimate secular purpose when it functions to skew the jury in favor of conviction” and encourages judges and prosecutors “to interrogate private citizens about their religious beliefs.”

The court filing was an answer to the government’s argument against Roof’s motion to strike the death penalty as a possible punishment in the federal case, which is set to start jury selection this month.

Religious freedoms are also inhibited, Roof’s attorneys added, because potential people are forced to choose between jury service and “adherence to their most closely-held religious, spiritual, and moral values.”

Prosecutors for the government argue that the so-called process of “death qualifying” jurors isn’t religious discrimination because it’s the same if you oppose the death penalty for religious reasons or non-religious ones.

“A prospective juror’s religion or religious beliefs do not potentially disqualify the juror from service; only his inability to apply the law does so,” prosecutors have argued.

Roof’s attorneys are also arguing that the death penalty itself is unconstitutional. They also noted that their challenge is only being brought because the government rejected his offer to plead guilty and accept a punishment of multiple life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Jury selection in Roof’s federal trial is scheduled to begin later this month, with 3,000 Charleston-area residents slated to participate in the process.

Source: BuzzFeed, Mike Hayes, Sept. 13, 2016

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