FEATURED POST

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

Image
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…

Obama's overlooked last-minute commutation lifts death sentence for disabled inmate

President Barack Obama
"Obama commuted more sentences than the last 13 presidents combined.”
President Barack Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence for leaking classified information got the most interest from the media on Tuesday, but a commutation in a capital case is getting the attention of lawyers advocating for better administration of the death penalty.

Obama commuted the death sentence of Abelardo Arboleda Ortiz to life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to Politico and this list published by the Washington Post.

Ortiz and two others had been convicted of killing a drug dealer in 1998. The other men did not receive death sentences.

Arboleda Ortiz is intellectually disabled, but his trial lawyer didn’t investigate that disability and didn’t tell jurors about his client’s disadvantaged life, according to a statement by the inmate’s new lawyer, Amy Gershenfeld Donnella. His sentence was harsher than that of his co-defendants, though he wasn’t even on the same floor where the murder occurred, she said.

“Mr. Arboleda Ortiz’s case epitomizes the broken federal death penalty system,” Donnella said. “He is an intellectually disabled person of color with an IQ of 54 who was never able to learn to read, write, or do simple arithmetic, and could not even tie his shoes until he was 10 years old, as noted by the government’s own expert. …

“Mr. Arboleda Ortiz’s case highlights several of the glaring problems that plague the federal system no less than state systems: dreadful lawyering by defense counsel; disproportionate sentencing even among co-defendants; significant racial, economic and geographic disparities in the choice of those who will be tried capitally; and procedural constraints that make it virtually impossible to correct a conviction or sentence imposed, even in violation of the Constitution, when new evidence comes to light.”

Obama also commuted the sentence of a second death-row inmate, Dwight Loving, to life in prison without parole, report the Marshall Project and the Houston Chronicle. Loving was convicted in 1989 by a military court for killing two cab drivers in Texas.

The Marshall Project asked the White House why Obama decided to commute the sentences of the two death-row inmates, but the publication did not receive a response.

➤ Related article: Obama commutes 330 more sentences, surpasses total of last 13 presidents combined”, ABA Journal, January 19, 2017

Source: ABA Journal, Debra C. Weiss, January 18-19, 2017

⚑ | Report an error, an omission, a typo; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; submit a piece, a comment; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

New Hampshire: More than 50,000 anti-death penalty signatures delivered to Sununu

Texas: The accused Santa Fe shooter will never get the death penalty. Here’s why.

Malaysian court sentences Australian grandmother to death by hanging

Post Mortem – the execution of Edward Earl Johnson

Convicted killer from infamous “Texas 7” prison escape gets execution date

Ohio: Lawyers seek review of death sentence for 23-year-old Clayton man

Texas man on death row for decapitating 3 kids loses appeal

Amnesty International Once Again Highlights Shocking Justice System in Iran

Maria Exposto: Can she avoid execution?

Ohio man with execution set for July 18 blames killing on ‘homosexual panic’