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…

Nebraska: Ricketts Administration admits there are costs savings if Death Penalty does not come back

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts
LINCOLN, NE - State Sen. Adam Morfeld of Lincoln, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said today after a special Legislative hearing on the Department of Corrections discussing the cost of Nebraska prisons, that he appreciates the Ricketts Administration finally admitting that there are costs savings if Nebraska’s death penalty does not come back.

“After weeks of trying to cast doubts on the first scientific study ever done on the costs of Nebraska’s death penalty by the state’s most trusted economist, Dept of Corrections Director Scott Frakes today admitted to our committee that taxpayers would save money by eliminating the death penalty,” Sen. Morfeld said.

Dr. Ernie Goss, professor of economics at Creighton University, presented a study earlier this summer that revealed Nebraska’s maintenance of the death penalty cost the state approximately $14.6 million annually above what the state’s cost for life without parole would be. This sum was calculated based on data Nebraska agencies report to the U.S. Census bureau. The extra cost of the death penalty is due to the death penalty’s additional pre-trial processes, appeals unique to capital cases, and special housing afforded death row inmates.

Following the release of Dr. Goss’ study, a bipartisan group of Nebraska State Senators, celebrated further evidence that their decision to end the death penalty was the right one for all Nebraskans.

“Dr. Goss’ findings affirm the decision the Unicameral made when we acted to remove our broken, costly death penalty and leave in place the strong alternative of life without the possibility of parole,” Speaker Galen Hadley said soon after the study was released.

Source: Retain a Just Nebraska, September 30, 2016. Retain a Just Nebraska is a public education campaign to urge the retention of LB 268, the Nebraska Legislature’s vote to end the death penalty. Supporters include fiscal conservatives, law enforcement officials, faith leaders, murder victims’ families, and Nebraskans from all walks of life. It is a statewide coalition conducting public education on the smart alternative of life in prison without parole, which protects society without the many problems of our death penalty system.

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