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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…

Louisiana death row inmate Rodricus Crawford out on bond after conviction overturned

Rodricus Crawford
Rodricus Crawford
Rodricus Crawford, a local man previously convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death, was released from jail for now after a judge in Caddo District Court assigned him a $50,000 bond on Tuesday.

The Caddo Parish Sheriff's Office confirmed that Crawford bonded out of jail on Tuesday evening.

Crawford was convicted in 2013 of the first-degree murder of his 1-year-old son, Roderius Lott. 

The Louisiana Supreme Court last week vacated the trial court's verdict, and now Crawford has the opportunity for a new trial. Crawford had been on death row in Angola. The case has drawn attention from the national media.

At the hearing on Tuesday, the defense requested that Crawford's bond be set at $25,000, while the prosecution asked for $50,000.

While Judge Brady O'Callaghan said the bond amount was "inappropriately low," he agreed to give the state's recommendation the benefit of the doubt.

"The charge against you is serious and has not been dismissed," O'Callaghan said to Crawford after setting the amount of the bond. "Please be prompt in all of your appearances."

According to the judge, an indictment is still pending.

Crawford's attorney, Cecelia Kappel, had no comment.

In a statement to The Times last week, the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office said the case will be reassigned. 

A new assistant district attorney will re-evaluate the case in order to make a determination on a proper course of action to proceed further in the matter.

"This case has been a tragedy from the start," Kappel said in a statement to The Times. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Caddo Parish District Attorney's Office in order to right this injustice."

The case put Caddo Parish and former District Attorney Dale Cox in the spotlight over the use of the death penalty. The Death Penalty Information Center included Caddo Parish in a 2013 report about how 2 percent of U.S. counties were responsible for 56 % of the people on death row.

The Crawford case has drawn particular scrutiny, with defense attorneys and Crawford's supporters arguing there's no proof a crime even occurred.

Crawford was convicted of murdering his 1-year-old son. He told authorities he'd been sleeping next to his son and woke up to find him unresponsive in 2012. Prosecutors argued that Crawford smothered the boy. But the defense argued the boy had pneumonia and could have died from natural causes.

Defense attorneys also challenged the prosecution's exclusion of certain African-American jurors, and in the end the judges tossed out the conviction on that issue.

Sources: shreveporttimes.com, The Associated Press, November 23, 2016

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