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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…

Nebraska AG: 3 inmates likely first in line for death penalty

Nebraska's death chamber
Nebraska's death chamber
Gov. Pete Ricketts on Tuesday dismissed concerns about a lack of transparency in proposed changes to Nebraska's lethal injection protocol.

The proposal announced Monday by the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services would allow the state prisons director to choose the drug or drugs to be used in an execution and would keep the identity of the supplier of drugs confidential.

It also would keep the drugs and method of administration secret until 60 days before a death warrant is requested. At that point, the information would be shared with the condemned inmate.

"Claims of secrecy really just aren't founded," Ricketts said during a news conference Tuesday at the Capitol.

He said the proposed rules are intended to protect the drug provider and that the 60-day window of notification provides flexibility for the state to change the drug it uses while still giving inmates "plenty of time" to appeal.

"We're really not changing anything about confidentiality," Ricketts said, but the protocol would "give the state flexibility to carry out the execution."

The state has not been able to buy two of the three drugs in its current protocol, sodium thiopental and pancuronium bromide, in several years.

Of the states that executed people so far this year:

* Florida used a three-drug protocol of midazolam to render the inmate unconsciousness, vecuronium bromide to induce paralysis and potassium chloride to stop the heart.

* Alabama used midazolam, rocuronium bromide to stop breathing and then potassium chloride. The state plans to use midazolam for a scheduled Dec. 8 execution.

* Texas, Georgia and Missouri all used one drug, pentobarbital.

Three Nebraska death row inmates, Carey Dean Moore, Jose Sandoval and John Lotter, have exhausted their state and federal appeals, according to Attorney General Doug Peterson, and could be first in line to have execution dates set.

* Moore, 59, killed two Omaha cab drivers in the course of two separate robberies and has been on death row for 36 years.

* Sandoval, 37, was convicted of seven murders and sentenced to death 13 years ago for killing five people at a Norfolk bank.

* Lotter, 45, was convicted on three counts of first-degree murder in Richardson County, one targeted because she was transgender. He has been on death row 20 years.

Peterson would not speculate on when an execution might take place. Some other attorneys have said it could take years to schedule one.

A public hearing on the new death penalty protocol proposal, which was unveiled three weeks after voters overwhelmingly reversed the Legislature's repeal of the death penalty, is set for Dec. 30.

"This is just a process," Peterson said. "Whenever regulations are adopted, they have to go through the administrative process of having a hearing."

Once the steps are complied with, it becomes the protocol of the Corrections Department, he said.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star, Joanne Young, November 29, 2016

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