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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…

Philippines: Public 'split' on death penalty restoration

"Many Filipinos who appear to favor the revival of capital punishment are merely
venting exasperation over the miserable performance of our criminal justice system."
People's support for restoration of death penalty is weak and shallow, a pro-life lawmaker said on Monday.

"Offhand, many Filipinos who appear to favor the revival of capital punishment are merely venting their exasperation over the miserable performance of our criminal justice system," Rep. Lito Atienza of Buhay party-list group noted.

"Filipinos hunger and thirst for justice, not for blood. And this craving for justice may be satisfied only by profound and comprehensive reforms in law enforcement, prosecution service, the judiciary and our prisons," according to Atienza, also House senior deputy minority leader.

He was responding to results of an online poll on the House of Representatives' official website, which showed that 50 % of participants favored the renewal of the death penalty, while 48 % rejected the extreme punishment, with 2 % undecided.

The ratings imply that the reinstatement of the death penalty "is a highly discordant matter that is best deferred by Congress," Atienza, a former 3-term city mayor of Manila, said.

The lawmaker blamed "widespread corruption" for the dismal functioning of the justice system that he said has "deeply frustrated and angered" many Filipinos.

"Many citizens still do not report crime victimizations simply because they do not have confidence in our justice system. And the primary reason for this lack of public trust is corruption, which we have to eradicate first," Atienza said.

"In fact, many homeowners in middle-class subdivisions are extremely wary of opening their doors to Oplan: Tokhang precisely because they're scared that corrupt officers might put in false drug evidence," he added, referring to the operation plan implemented by the Philippine National Police (PNP) in connection with the Duterte administration's war on illegal drugs.

The PNP has acknowledged that double-dealing officers have been reselling back into the market some of the illegal drugs seized in the course of police operations under Oplan: Tokhang.

London-based Amnesty International and New York-based Human Rights Watch have repeatedly warned that the Philippine police still engage in unlawful methods and corrupt practices, including arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, intimidation and the use of planted evidence.

In March this year, a Pampanga trial court handed down a historic ruling in which a police officer was convicted of torturing a bus driver falsely accused of a drug offense and other felonies in a case of mistaken identity.

Police officer Jerick Dee Jimenez was sentenced to a maximum of 2 years and 1 month in prison, and ordered to pay P100,000 in damages to his torture victim, Jerryme Corre.

It was the 1st-ever conviction under the country's 2009 Anti-Torture Act.

Atienza said rotten police officers who resort to torture target only "impoverished people" who could not ably protect themselves.

"Many police officers still use torture to extract confessions because they either lack basic criminal investigation skills, or they've been paid by somebody to pin a crime on another person," he added.

According to Atienza, "We have to advance our scientific methods in criminal investigation, if we are to put more criminals behind bars and discourage the use of fabricated evidence. We have to develop forensic specialization."

Source: Manila Times, September 12, 2016

Pro-life solon says support for death penalty 'weak, shallow'


A pro-life lawmaker on Monday said public support for the reinstatement of the death penalty is "weak and shallow," citing an online poll posted at the House of Representatives website.

In a statement, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said those who expressly support the restoration of capital punishment were merely frustrated at the poor justice system.

Atienza said this "thirst for justice" should be quenched by fixing the law enforcement and the judicial system instead of resorting to the death penalty.

"Offhand, many Filipinos who appear to favor the revival of capital punishment are merely venting their exasperation over the miserable performance of our criminal justice system," Atienza said.

Atienza cited an online poll in the Congress website which showed that 50 % of participants supported death penalty, while a close 48 % rejected it. At least 2 % was undecided.

Rodrigo Duterte
Atienza said the ratings imply that the issue "is highly discordant matter that is best deferred by Congress."

It was Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez who first filed the bill seeking to reimpose the death penalty after former president Gloria Arroyo abolished capital punishment in 2006.

Alvarez filed the bill to reinstate the death penalty, pursuant to President Rodrigo Duterte's campaign promise of returning capital punishment against heinous criminals.

Alvarez's bill sought to reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes listed under Republic Act 7659, including murder, plunder, rape, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, sale, use and possession of illegal drugs, carnapping with homicide, among others.

In the bill he co-authored with deputy speaker Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, Alvarez said there is a need to reimpose the death penalty because "the national crime rate has grown to such alarming proportions requiring an all-out offensive against all forms of felonious acts."

"Philippine society is left with no option but to deal with certain grievous offenders in a manner commensurate to the gravity, perversity, atrociousness and repugnance of their crimes," according to the bill.

Source: Philippine Inquirer, September 12, 2016

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