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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…

LAX gunman who targeted TSA officers is sentenced to life in prison

Paul Ciencia
Paul Ciencia
The gunman whose 2013 rampage at Los Angeles International Airport left a Transportation Security Administration officer dead and three other people injured was sentenced Monday to life in prison for the premeditated attack in which he targeted federal officers.

Paul Ciancia, 26, had pleaded guilty to murder and other charges earlier this year as part of a deal in which federal prosecutors withdrew their decision to seek the death penalty for the shootings at the airport’s bustling Terminal 3.

“He didn't win. He’s doing life in prison. ...He’s not going to be able to hurt anyone else ever again,” Tony Grigsby, one of the TSA officers shot by Ciancia, said after the hearing Monday.

Before U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez handed down the life term, which was required under sentencing rules, Ciancia addressed the downtown courtroom full of law enforcement officers, victims and family members of Gerardo Hernandez, the TSA agent who was killed.

Dressed in a white jumpsuit, with his legs shackled to a chain around his waist, Ciancia gave an odd, mostly unapologetic account of the months leading up to the violence. He described wanting to commit suicide before the shooting, but said he decided first to spend the remainder of his life savings, which amounted to $26,000. During this time, he said he became interested in the debate over gun control and concluded, “I need to get a gun.”

Ciancia alluded to an incident in which he claimed he was harassed by Los Angeles police but gave no specifics, and he indicated that the harassment led him on a path toward violence.

“I knew exactly how I was going to die. I was going to take up arms against my own government,” he said.

As he planned where and whom to attack, Ciancia made reference to deciding against two other targets before settling on the TSA, but did not elaborate. He focused his anger on the TSA, he said, after coming to believe its officers were harassing people, including disabled people.

“I wanted to make a statement!” he said in court, his voice rising.

Ciancia apologized to the teacher who was among three people wounded in the rampage, expressing deep regret. But he never mentioned the effect of the shooting on the TSA officer he killed or two other officers who were wounded.

The teacher, Brian Ludmer, spoke after Ciancia and rebuked him for his “bizarre sense of remorse,” telling him he should apologize to the TSA officers he shot and their families.

“You need to apologize to them every day, and it still would not be enough,” he said.

Ciancia smirked at times as a member of the prosecution team spoke about the effect the shooting has had on the lives of the victims. Throughout the hearing, he looked around the courtroom frequently, seemingly trying to make eye contact with his victims and other law enforcement officers.

“The TSA officers were targeted because of the uniform they wore and because they were doing their job that day at Los Angeles airport keeping all of us safe,” said U.S. Atty. Eileen Decker. “The sentence today for Mr. Ciancia of life without the possibility of parole reflects the grievous nature of the crime.”

Ciancia, who grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and moved to Los Angeles about 18 months before the attack, harbored an odd, dangerous fixation on TSA officers, who screen travelers at the nation’s airports, even though they are not armed and have little authority.

After the attack, investigators found a handwritten note inside Ciancia’s luggage in which he railed against the TSA for its "Nazi checkpoints" and the presumption that "every American is a terrorist." The rampage would be a success, he wrote, if he managed to kill a TSA worker.

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Source: Los Angeles Times, November 8, 2016

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