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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…

Utah representative sponsoring two death penalty bills

Utah's House of Representatives
Utah's House of Representatives
A battle is brewing over the death penalty on Utah's Capitol Hill.

Representative Paul Ray says the state needs to send a strong message about what's going on across the country.

"We have people that are out across the country who are out targeting and trying to kill police officers, because of who they are. We want to say, you know what, in Utah we're not going to do that. We're going to get some protections," said Ray, (R) Clearfield.

Ray is sponsoring a bill he says will create those protections.

It would require prosecutors to seek the death penalty for anyone who targets and kills an officer or member of the military.

He says it would then be up to a jury to decide if the sentence should be carried out.

The ACLU of Utah is waiting to see the wording of the bill, but says there are some potential problems.

"We know from Supreme Court rulings that it is not constitutional to have a mandatory punishment for any type of crimes. So, having the death penalty be mandatory would definitely run afoul of the Constitution, so that's definitely a problem to be looking for," said Marina Lowe, Legislative Counsel with the ACLU.

Ray is also sponsoring a bill to make human traffickers eligible for the death penalty.

"If you bring somebody into human trafficking and they die for some reason, you could ultimately be charged with a capital offense and be subject to the death penalty, because you are responsible for that individuals death," said Ray.

Both bills will face resistance.

House Minority Leader Brian King wants to see the death penalty abolished.

"The thing that worries me about the death penalty is that there a lot of examples of indications where we have put innocent people to death," said King, (D) Salt Lake City.

King is also concerned about racial and financial disparity.

But, Ray is determined to push forward.

"You hear the argument all the time, well we are killing innocent people. We're not doing that in Utah, you know people we are killing deserve to die, so we want to make sure we maintain that," said Ray.

The human trafficking bill, House Bill 176 was made public Tuesday.

The one for police officers should be public by the end of the week.

Source: good4utah.com, January 25, 2017

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