In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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: Hearing on controversial lethal injection protocol proposal

Nebraska's death chamber
Nebraska's death chamber
A state hearing on a controversial lethal injection protocol proposal will begin at 9 a.m. Friday at the State Office Building in Lincoln.

Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, who opposes the death penalty, and says the proposed protocol raises constitutional questions, will be at the hearing, he said, and ACLU of Nebraska will submit testimony. ACLU presented a petition with 2,000 signatures gathered from across the state to the hearing officer earlier this week, said ACLU Executive Director Danielle Conrad.

The petition tells Gov. Pete Ricketts that Nebraskans want transparency in death penalty protocols.

Dale Baich is an assistant federal public defender in Arizona who has witnessed executions, including John Joubert's in Nebraska in 1996, and has been involved in challenges to execution protocols in a number of states.

He said Thursday that transparency is important in execution protocols, because any time the government acts, its citizens should be fully informed.

"The protocol as drafted is incredibly vague," he said, "and raised more questions than it answers."

It doesn't seem that a lot of thought was put into the protocol, he said.

"Because of this I see years of litigation trying to resolve issues not addressed or contemplated by the drafters," he said.

The state Department of Corrections has said its attorney, Julie Smith, drafted the protocol, but no drafts, documentation, correspondence or paper trail was available when requested through Freedom of Information requests by the Journal Star.

Those wanting to testify on the revisions to the protocol, written shortly after Nebraskans voted to keep the death penalty as an option for first-degree murder convictions, can do so before a hearing officer at 301 Centennial Mall in the lower level conference room. Testimony is limited to 5 minutes per person.

"The hearing officer is there to take testimony and will not answer questions on the protocol," said Dawn-Renee Smith, Department of Correctional Services communications director.

Corrections Director Scott Frakes said he would keep an open mind about any comments or testimony received by the department on the proposed protocol.

As it is proposed, it allows for the department to change the lethal injection drugs for an execution based on availability, and to notify the condemned inmate of the drug(s) to be used and the order they will be administered, if more than one, 60 days before a death warrant is requested from the Nebraska Supreme Court.

They may be directly purchased or obtained through the Department of Pharmacy or any other "appropriate source," including a compounding pharmacist or chemist. A chemical analysis will verify the substance, according to the protocol.

The director may authorize any records or information identifying a person, company or entity supplying the drugs to be confidential.

Source: Lincoln Journal Star, Joane Young, December 29, 2016

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