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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…

Execution of mentally ill prisoners ‘inappropriate’, says Pakistan’s Supreme Court

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has indicated that the Government cannot execute mentally ill death-row prisoners such as Imdad Ali, who suffers from schizophrenia.

At a hearing this morning, judges said that if Imdad Ali, who suffers from schizophrenia, can be proven to have been mentally ill at the time of his trial in 2001 then he must not be executed. They added that while Mr Ali remains mentally unfit, it would be “inappropriate” to hang him.

Mr Ali, 50, has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Jail medical records presented at the Supreme Court hearing show that Imdad has been treated for mental illness for many years, and that a 2013 medical report concluded that he is “insane.” More recent medical reports, from September and October this year, have confirmed his illness, and a psychiatrist at his prison has deemed him “a treatment-resistant case.”

Sentenced to death in 2002 over a shooting, Mr Ali has spent 14 years on Pakistan’s death row, including 3 years in the jail hospital in solitary confinement. The execution of mentally ill people is illegal under Pakistani and international law. However, despite Mr Ali’s illness, the Pakistani authorities have been seeking to carry out his execution since last month, when a warrant for his hanging was handed down.

At a hearing on Monday, the Supreme Court ordered that a medical board be set up to determine whether Mr Ali is mentally ill.

Pakistan has hanged an estimated 418 people since resuming executions in December 2014, including juveniles, prisoners who were tortured into ‘confessions’, and others who have subsequently been found to have been innocent. The country’s compliance with its international human rights obligations will be reviewed as early as next year by the UN Human Rights Council and UN treaty monitoring bodies.

Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said:

“It’s welcome to hear Pakistan’s Supreme Court affirming that the Government cannot execute mentally ill prisoners. There is already abundant evidence that Imdad Ali is severely mentally ill – his hanging would be a serious breach of Pakistani and international law. The Pakistani authorities must urgently heed these warnings, and commute Imdad’s death sentence before it’s too late.”

- More information about Imdad Ali's case can be seen at the Reprieve website.

Source: Reprieve, November 16, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization.

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