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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…

World Psychiatric Association warns Pakistan’s Supreme Court over executing mentally ill

The World Psychiatric Association has warned Pakistan not to execute a severely mentally ill man.

Khizar Hayat, a former policeman, could be hanged as early as next week. A stay preventing his execution expires on Monday (30th) unless judges agree to lengthen it.

In a statement issued today, the Association of over 200,000 psychiatrists worldwide said it was “extremely concerned” by plans to execute Hayat. It added that his “execution would be an irreversible miscarriage of justice.”

Hayat was diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia in 2008. After eight years of treatment with powerful anti-psychotic medications, his symptoms remain as serious as ever, leading to a diagnosis that his schizophrenia is treatment resistant.

His case has close parallels with Imdad Ali, another mentally ill prisoner who was set to be executed at the end of last year.

In Ali's case, Pakistan’s Supreme Court commented that schizophrenia is a “recoverable disease” and it does not fall within the meaning of “mental disorder”.

However, the World Psychiatric Association reiterated today “the validity of schizophrenia as a diagnosis”, saying that it is accepted by “mental health professionals the world over”.

Ali’s case is still before the Supreme Court. On Monday (30th), high court judges in Lahore will decide if Hayat’s stay of execution should be extended until the Supreme Court has decided Ali’s case.

Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said: “Pakistan’s authorities must listen to this warning from psychiatrists around the world and confirm once and for all that it is wrong to execute mentally ill prisoners such as Khizar Hayat and Imdad Ali. It would be outrageous for judges not to extend Khizar’s stay of execution on Monday while the Supreme Court is still deciding how to deal with mentally ill death row inmates.”

Source: Reprieve, January 27, 2017

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