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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…

Pakistan acquits two hanged men, as 'insane' man faces execution

Concerns have been raised over wrongful executions in Pakistan, after two brothers who had already been hanged were found to be innocent.

The news comes amid fears for a mentally ill prisoner who is due to be executed on Wednesday (2nd), in violation of Pakistani and international law. 

The wife of Imdad Ali, a severely mentally ill man, has asked President Mamnoon Hussain to grant mercy to her husband before his scheduled hanging on Wednesday, but has had no response. Government psychiatrists have confirmed that Mr Ali suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. Mr Ali is held in isolation, and is unaware that he faces execution. Click here to sign Reprieve's online clemency petition.

The execution of mentally ill people is prohibited under Pakistani and international law, and fears of a wrongful execution for Mr Ali have grown since a human rights committee in Pakistan's upper house of parliament highlighted yesterday that two brothers were recently acquitted after they had been hanged. The Supreme Court found earlier this month that the brothers, Ghulam Sarwar and Ghulam Qadir, were innocent. Both men were executed last year, after the President declined to grant their mercy petitions.

Senator Farhatullah Babar demanded an inquiry into the two wrongful executions, and said his committee would seek a pardon from the President for Imdad Ali. He said: “In order to prevent the fate of Ghulam brothers befalling others on the death row, the moratorium on execution should be restored as the current system of capital punishment is reviewed.”

Pakistan has hanged an estimated 418 people since a moratorium on executions was lifted in December 2014. Under international law, the President has a duty to review death penalty cases, and Article 45 of Pakistan’s Constitution grants the President powers to “grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute” death sentences. However, since executions resumed in 2014, approximately 444 people have had their mercy petitions rejected, and there are fears that the authorities are enforcing an informal blanket policy of rejection.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said: “Pakistan’s President has already condemned innocent people like the Ghulam brothers to death by declining to grant their mercy petitions – he cannot risk another wrongful execution on Wednesday. Imdad Ali is so mentally ill that he doesn’t even know that he faces the gallows. It’s clear his hanging would put Pakistan in serious breach of international and Pakistani law. The President must urgently heed these warnings, and grant mercy to Imdad.”
  • Detail on the cases of Ghulam Sarwar and Ghulam Qadir, and Senator Babar's comments, were reported here.
  • Government psychiatrist Dr Tahir Feroze has told Reuters: "I have been treating this man for the last eight years, and there is absolutely no room for doubt in this that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia."
  • More information about Imdad Ali is available on the Reprieve website.
Source: Reprieve, October 28, 2016

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