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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…

Turkish pianist Fazıl Say acquitted of blasphemy charges after four-year legal battle

Turkish pianist Fazıl Say
Turkish pianist Fazıl Say
World-renowned Turkish pianist Fazıl Say was acquitted of blasphemy charges on Sept. 7, four years after being sentenced to a suspended jail term after sharing a post on his Twitter account.

An Istanbul court ordered Say’s acquittal on charges of “insulting religious beliefs held by a section of society” for retweeting several lines attributed to the 11th century Persian poet Omar Khayyam in 2012.

In a post on his Instagram account after the four-year judicial struggle, Say thanked and congratulated his lawyer Meltem Akyol.

He had received a suspended 10-month prison sentence in April 2013 for retweeting Khayyam’s lines after three people filed a criminal complaint to the Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office, accusing him of blasphemy.

An Istanbul court later accepted Say’s demand to cancel his suspended sentence, paving way for his retrial.

In the September 2013 retrial, an Istanbul court sentenced Say to 10 months in prison but again suspended the sentence as Say had no previous criminal record.

The pianist then appealed this verdict at the Supreme Court of Appeals, which demanded in November 2014 that the controversial judgment against Say be reversed and he be acquitted.

On Oct. 26, 2015, the 8th Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals ruled by a majority vote that Say’s Twitter posts should be regarded as freedom of thought and expression and thus should not be punished.

Among the lines attributed to Khayyam that Say retweeted was: “You say its rivers will flow in wine. Is the Garden of Eden a drinking house?”

Source: Hurriyet, September 7, 2016

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