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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…

Texas AG sues FDA for delaying import of death penalty drug

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Tuesday his office has filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for delaying the state’s importation of a drug used in capital punishment.

The lawsuit argues the FDA’s claimed legal grounds for refusing the drugs’ entry into the United States are invalid, citing an FDA exemption for law enforcement purposes.

Thiopental sodium, also known as Sodium thiopental, is part of the three-drug cocktail used in lethal injections.

In its December newsletter, the Council of State Governments said, while Texas has 317 inmates on death row, it only has enough of a key lethal injection drug to execute two of them, stemming from a nationwide shortage of the drug.

The Attorney General’s Office is asking the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas to declare the FDA’s delay unlawful and compel the agency to make a final decision on the admissibility of the drug, which was detained by the FDA 17 months ago.

“There are only two reasons why the FDA would take 17 months to make a final decision on Texas’ importation of thiopental sodium: gross incompetence or willful obstruction,” said Attorney General Paxton. “The FDA has an obligation to fulfill its responsibilities faithfully and in a timely manner. My office will not allow the FDA to sit on its hands and thereby impair Texas’ responsibility to carry out its law enforcement duties.”

In April 2016, the FDA blocked an appeal to bring in Sodium thiopental from India. Experts in the FDA said there is not a legal use for the drug in the U.S.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice previously used the drug as part of a three-drug cocktail for executions. Since 2012, Texas has used a large dose of a single powerful sedative to carry out executions.

The maker of the drug made it off limits to sell to the government for execution purposes. Texas has been using compounding pharmacies to make the drugs needed for executions..

Source: KXAN, Andy Jechow, January 3, 2017

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