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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…

Abolition of the death penalty in Montana

Welcome to Montana
Now is the time for a significant act of righteousness – the time to put the admonition “thou shalt not kill” into action.

We must act soon to permanently abolish the death penalty in Montana.

Relevant bills to do so will be introduced when the Montana Legislature convenes in January 2017. Our great state would be further distinguished by abolition of this archaic practice. The death penalty is not a large numerical issue in Montana, since, thank God, we have few on “death row.”

It is, however, big to the few and to our moral/ethical conscience. The death penalty is on legal “hold” in Montana, as uncertainty about drugs for lethal injection has become and continues to be an issue.

The moral/ethical position against capital punishment: Abolish the death penalty because it is the right thing to do.

• “Thou shalt not kill.” We need to put this into action related to violence worldwide. In few instances do we have the power to control killing, but abolition of capital punishment is one such instance.

• Mistakes are made in some cases. Infrequently, persons, who are later shown to be innocent, have been on death row awaiting execution. Some have, no doubt, been executed and later been proven innocent.

• Family and loved ones of victims often favor life imprisonment over death and find solace in mercy.

• The death penalty has not been a deterrent to crime, nor is there evidence that its abolition promotes or facilitates crime.

• Is the person convicted and sentenced the same person who awaits execution, often many years after sentencing? Or has that person changed? It’s a privilege given humankind to be able to change.

• Spare the executioner the experience of executing. Imagine such a job.

Another position: Abolish the death penalty because it’s the responsible thing to do.

It costs society more to carry out a death penalty sentence than to maintain a life sentence, in terms of monetary costs of appeals, etc. Anti-death penalty legislation proposes life in prison without possibility of parole. It would cost less.

Lethal injection is not the merciful means of killing envisioned. About 7 percent of such executions are “botched.” The availability of drugs used to kill has been an issue for some time, and recently the pharmaceutical company Pfizer refused to provide its drugs for lethal injection. This makes a statement.

Not unexpectedly, there are pros and cons about these points, but we have chosen the position that suits our individual moral consciences. See deathpenalty.procon.org for a ten-point argument.

Whatever your personal reasons, please support efforts to abolish capital punishment in Montana by writing to representatives of your district, simply stating your support for bills abolishing capital punishment.

Source: Ravalli Republic, Guest Column, Mary Darby and Blaise Favara, January 6, 2017

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