In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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…

China's 'shocking' sentence: Hebei man who killed village chief after house demolition to be executed

Chinese police officers demonstrate standard execution procedures
Chinese police officers demonstrate standard execution procedures
A Chinese man who killed a village chief who arranged for his house to be demolished will be executed in the coming days. The ruling against 30-year-old Jia Jinglong was delivered to his lawyer on Tuesday.

Jia is from Shijiazhuang, the capital of Hebei Province in northern China. After his house was demolished in 2013, he killed the chief in February 2015 with a modified nail gun. 

His lawyer Wei Rujiu told US-backed Radio Free Asia that he received the verdict from the Supreme People's Court. It said that Jia's execution would take place within a few days, and that there was no chance of the decision being reversed. 

According to US-backed news Voice of America, Jia was renovating the house in preparation for his wedding but the relationship ended as a result of a forced demolition by village chief He Jianhua. 

The death penalty was approved by the Supreme Court in Henan on August 31, reported RFA. 

William Nee, researcher at Amnesty International, told HKFP that Jia's sentence is seen by many experts as harsh by Chinese legal standards. 

"Given the fact that China currently has the policy of "killing fewer, killing cautiously", this case seems shocking," he wrote in an email. 

He said that the short time period of 7 days between ratifying the sentence and execution is stipulated by law in China. 

"Many scholars have identified this short period as problematic if China were ever to come into compliance with international law on the death penalty, since under international law a person who has been given a death sentence should be given the chance to apply for pardon or have the sentence commuted. But China doesn't have this sort of mechanism," he said. 

Nationalistic tabloid the Global Times reported on Friday that several Chinese law experts had voiced their opposition to the immediate execution order. Zhang Qianfan, a law professor at Peking University, told the tabloid that the affair was also an institutional failure. "Any ordinary person could resort to the same means as Jia when facing unfair treatment," he said. 

'Extremely cruel murder' 

The tabloid cited a copy of the verdict it received as saying that the method of the murder was extremely cruel and caused severe social impact, and that the conviction was appropriate and accurate. 

Wei told RFA that over 200 mainland citizens signed a petition on WeChat requesting that the death penalty be commuted. He said there were 3 reasons for the petition: one was that Jia was himself a victim of ill-treatment from He Jianhua; the 2nd reason was that Jia had turned himself in, and the 3rd reason was that he did not hurt innocent people while committing his crime. If Jia is executed, other desperate people may not consider sparing innocent bystanders, and other criminals may think that turning themselves in is unsafe, said Wei. 

Although no recent reports of the case by mainland media could be found apart from the Global Times report, several posts about Jia's story were uploaded on WeChat by bloggers. 

Nee adds: "the fact that the local newspapers have not reported the death penalty ratification also shows how the authorities sometimes manipulate public opinion about the death penalty by widely publicising the most horrific cases, while staying silent or even censoring news about potentially controversial cases." 

Source: hongkongfp.com, October 22, 2016

Man facing death penalty becomes defiant symbol of China's injustice

In May of 2013, Jia Jinglong had nearly finalized preparations for his wedding. He wanted to hold it at his family's home, a spacious and bright place where he had hung the ceremony decorations and prepared a place to live with his bride.

Mr. Jia's village had different plans. It had slated his home for demolition to make way for new development, and wanted Mr. Jia gone. 18 days before the wedding, a wrecking crew came to the house and started to tear it down while Mr. Jia was still inside. He leaped out from a 2nd-storey window and thugs beat him, leaving him homeless and injured. His fiancee left him.

In the battle between poor homeowner and China's mighty development machine, another man had lost, a story repeated countless times over the past few decades.

But Mr. Jia fought back - and now, facing the death penalty for the murderous retribution he exacted, he has become a symbol of the injustices faced by China's lower classes, at home and in the country's courts.

2 years after his home was demolished, Mr. Jia used a nail gun to kill the local village chief, whom he blamed for ordering the forcible demolition. A Chinese court found Mr. Jia guilty of murder, and sentenced him to death. Last Tuesday, the Supreme People's Court approved the ruling, concluding a process that is conducted in secret and cannot be appealed.

Mr. Jia, however, has not silently vanished. Instead, his family and lawyers have made him the subject of a furious and unusually open fight against capital punishment.

As the clock ticked toward Mr. Jia's expected death, some of China's most prominent legal advocates called for authorities to show mercy and spare the life of a man who has become, in the span of a few short days, the newest symbol of the country's judicial shortcomings.

The situation has come to "a critical juncture of life or death, and though things look desperate, [I am] still here calling for the Supreme Court to make an exception," wrote Xu Xin, a law professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology, on his public WeChat social media account Monday.

Before killing the village chief, Mr. Jia had prepared a social-media message saying he would exact payback and then surrender. He never sent it, but he did travel in the direction of a police station after the killing. His willingness to admit guilt, and the fact he appears to have been wronged by a village chief behind the legally questionable demolition of his home, should have been mitigating factors, his defenders say.

Their appeal for leniency has only a slim chance of success. Mr. Jia killed a Chinese authority, a serious offence, and the decision of the Supreme People's Court is final. "The facts are clear, and the evidence sufficient," a lower court wrote.

"Death penalties have mostly been carried out against ordinary
people on the bottom rung of society."
But his family had not yet been notified of his death by Monday evening, lawyer Liu Hong said in an interview. Instead, Supreme Court judges "spent a long time talking with his sister, Jia Jingyuan, today," Ms. Liu said. "That's a good sign." It's not yet clear whether the Supreme Court has issued an execution enforcement order, which would begin a 7-day countdown for Mr. Jia to die, likely through lethal injection.

Even if he is executed, Mr. Jia's story may resonate beyond the grave, as he becomes the latest figure to galvanize public opinion against a justice system often seen as unjust.

In China, "everyone can see themselves as Jia Jinglong," a man driven to desperation against an unyielding state, said Michelle Miao, an assistant law professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong who is an expert on the death penalty in China.

By opening a window into the capital-punishment system, Mr. Jia has also provided "an opportunity for the public to finally see what is happening within the courtrooms," Prof. Miao said. "Only these high-profile cases can shine some light into the actual implementation of the machinery of justice in China."

And those angered by his case don't like what they see. "Corrupt officials who have done so much damage to society were not killed, so why him?" asked one person on Chinese social media, where Mr. Jia's story was widely shared, after it was also reported by state media.

"Why keep giving such serious punishment to citizens who just want to protect their private rights?" asked another. "Kill him - the attitude among public servants. Don't kill him - the attitude among ordinary people," commented another.

China is believed to execute more people than all other countries combined, but the country does not publish statistics. Human-rights advocates have long raised China's death penalty as a black mark on its judicial system, with procedures that violate international norms.

"The Chinese government continues to give the public the impression that the death penalty is only strictly applied in a limited amount of horrific cases - such as in the recent spate of cases in which people have killed hospital staff," said William Nee, China researcher for Amnesty International. Cases such as Mr. Jia's challenge that line, suggesting China uses execution as a deterrence tool to maintain social order.

When people find out, they are often unhappy, Mr. Nee said. "They think there are better ways to tackle the underlying social conflicts," he said.

Chinese legal officials have pledged to limit executions, officially declaring policies such as "when there is the choice to kill or not to kill, always choose not to kill." But courts have tended to show greater restraint in cases of wealthy and powerful officials.

The result has been that "death penalties have mostly been carried out against ordinary people on the bottom rung of society," said Si Weijiang, a lawyer who has helped with Mr. Jia's case. "The public can see a sharp contrast," he added.

The reliance by Chinese courts on evidence supplied by police who rush to achieve results, sometimes using torture, has created further problems. It is only in the past few years that such issues have seized public attention, after a series of high-profile wrongful conviction cases.

Chinese state media have celebrated them as the country's leaders argue that courts are improving.

In September, the Chinese government released a white paper that claimed "new progress has been made in human rights protection in the field of justice."

It said courts respect the presumption of innocence, and acquitted 3,369 defendants between 2012 and 2015. That pales next to the 1.2 million people found guilty last year alone, for a conviction rate of 99.92 %.

Legal experts say China's claims of strengthened legal protections have brought only modest change in court, where suspects are still commonly treated as if they are presumed guilty.

In Mr. Jia's case, his father had signed paperwork allowing the village to demolish the home. But he signed only after officials threatened to cut off retirement benefits for him and other relatives if he refused, the family testified in court.

Ms. Liu, the lawyer, acknowledged "it's not so likely" the court will reverse its decision. But, she said, Mr. Jia's case has underscored broader problems.

"There is too little transparency with execution procedures," she said. "And very few guarantees of the defendant's rights."

Source: theglobeandmail.com, October 25, 2016

⚑ | Report an error, an omission; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; send a submission; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.

Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

New Hampshire: More than 50,000 anti-death penalty signatures delivered to Sununu

Texas: The accused Santa Fe shooter will never get the death penalty. Here’s why.

Texas executes Juan Castillo

Mary Jane Veloso: The woman the firing squad left behind

Five executed in Iran, two hanged in public

What Indiana officials want to keep secret about executions

Collection of items from the career of Britain's most famous executioner discovered

Post Mortem – the execution of Edward Earl Johnson

In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

China: Appeal of nanny's death penalty sentence wraps up