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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…

Kenya: Debate on abolishing death sentence resumes in 28 counties

Power of Mercy Advisory Committee vice chairperson Regina Boisabi, Prisons boss Muriithi Githaiga and POMAC chief executive Michael Kagika
Power of Mercy Advisory Committee vice chairperson Regina Boisabi,
Prisons boss Muriithi Githaiga and POMAC chief executive Michael Kagika.
The Power of Mercy Advisory Committee will on Wednesday continue collecting views on whether the death penalty and life imprisonment should be abolished.

CEO Michael Kagika said in a statement that findings will be documented and recommendations drawn from citizens' opinions.

“The debate provides a platform for Kenyans to express their opinions on capital offences and what forms of punishment capital offenders should be subjected to,” he said.

“At present, there are approximately 3,000 convicts who have been handed the death sentence. Out of this number, only 300 criminal offenders have gone through the appeal process in court and can therefore be said to be on death row."

There are currently five crimes classified as capital offences. Murder, treason, robbery with violence, attempted robbery with violence and oathing for criminal activities by proscribed groups including terrorists attract the death penalty upon conviction.

POMAC, through meetings held meetings in 19 counties since June, found majority of Kenyans want the death sentence abolished and life imprisonment reviewed.

Kagika said public discussions led by the committee and the National Crime Research Centre will be held in the next two months in the remaining 28 counties.

The agency has partnered with stakeholders including county governments, the Kenya Prisons Service, the ODPP and the judiciary to collect views.

The church and other faith-based organisations, women, youth, village elders, media, civil society, persons with disabilities, the business community and prisoners were encouraged to participate.

The committee will visit Kirinyaga, Nyeri, Nyandarua, Samburu, Murang’a, Kiambu, Garissa, Kitui, Machakos, Makueni, Busia, Bungoma, Kakamega, Vihiga, Nandi, Uasin Gishu and Elgeyo Marakwet.

Others are Trans Nzoia, West Pokot, Marsabit, Isiolo, Meru, Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Turkana, Mandera, Wajir, and Nairobi.

Source: The Star, Joseph Ndunda, September 13, 2016

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