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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…

California Supreme Court halts voter-approved death penalty measure

San Quentin Prison's death row
San Quentin Prison's death row
The California Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked a voter-approved measure intended to speed up the appeals process for the state's death row inmates to give it time to consider a lawsuit challenging the measure.

In a one-page decision, the court stayed the "implementation of all provisions of Proposition 66" and set a timeline for filing briefs in the case.

Proposition 66 would change how appeals are handled, appointing more lawyers to take cases, putting certain types of appeals before trial court judges and setting a five-year deadline for appeals to be heard. 

Currently, it can take longer than that for an attorney to be assigned to a case and upward of 25 years to exhaust appeals.

The lawsuit by former California Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp and Ron Briggs, whose father wrote the ballot measure that expanded California's death penalty in 1978, said the reform measure would disrupt the courts, cost more money and limit the ability to mount proper appeals.

They said the deadlines would set "an inordinately short timeline for the courts to review those complex cases" and result in attorneys cutting corners in their investigations.

Supporters of the measure have called the lawsuit a frivolous stall tactic.

California voters faced two death penalty measures in the November election. They rejected a measure that would have abolished the death penalty and narrowly approved Proposition 66.

Source: Associated Press, December 20, 2016

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