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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 Supreme Court to review death sentence of mentally ill prisoner

Pakistan’s Supreme Court will rehear the death penalty case of a severely mentally ill man on Monday (14th).

Imdad Ali was due to be hanged on 2 November until the Supreme Court issued a stay just days before he would have gone to the gallows.

Mr Ali has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Recent prison medical assessments described Mr Ali as “insane”, and concluded that his is “a treatment-resistant case.” The execution of mentally ill people is illegal under Pakistani and international law.

The Supreme Court had previously cleared the way for Mr Ali’s execution, saying controversially that schizophrenia was ‘not a mental illness’. However, on 31 October the Supreme Court postponed Mr Ali’s hanging after a fresh petition from his lawyers, and following an intervention in support of Mr Ali from the government of Punjab province, where he is held.

The Punjab government's review petition said that the Supreme Court’s definition of schizophrenia “has resulted in a grave miscarriage of justice”, because it was contrary to the universally accepted medical definition of ‘mental disorder’. It stated that prison medical records showed Mr Ali had “consistently displayed symptoms of schizophrenia” and “is not showing signs of improvement and has active psychotic symptoms”.

Commenting, Maya Foa, a director at human rights organization Reprieve, which is assisting Mr Ali, said:

“Pakistan’s Supreme Court has a golden opportunity to revise its decision and clarify that not only is schizophrenia a serious mental illness, but also that prisoners with illnesses this severe cannot be executed. It is universally accepted that the execution of a prisoner as mentally ill as Imdad serves no moral purpose and is contrary to international law. This exceptional case has drawn attention from around the world. It is now hoped the Court will confirm that international and Pakistani law do not permit the execution of this severely mentally ill man.”

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

Source: Reprieve, November 12, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization.

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