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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…

Arizona death-row inmates offered 'do-it-yourself' execution

The Arizona Department of Corrections has had trouble killing people.

It hasn't been able to get the drugs it wants, and the drugs that it has gotten have transformed the already gruesome act of executing a person into a ghoulish, unacceptable freak show.

But the department persists.

The latest move - unique in the world - offers Arizona death-row inmates the opportunity to perform a kind of do-it-yourself execution.

Last month, The Arizona Republic's Michael Kiefer reported on a new execution protocol announced by Corrections Director Charles Ryan.

Like many policy decisions in Arizona government, the process begins with the implausible and ends with the bizarre.

Executions, the Department of Corrections says, are to be carried out using either of 2 barbiturates, pentobarbital or thiopental.

Except there's a small problem. Neither of those drugs can be obtained legally. Thiopental is no longer manufactured in the United States and is banned from importation, and the manufacturers of pentobarbital refuse to sell the drug for the purpose of execution.

Will the state find a compounding pharmacy that will produce the deadly mixture for the department?

We'll see.

In the meantime, the new execution protocol says that if defense attorneys choose to do so, they can pick up the drugs on their own and the department will use it to kill their clients.

Really.

"This is a bizarre notion that calls for actions that are both illegal and impossible," said Dale Baich from the office of The Federal Public Defender in Arizona.

Arizona is alone in this lunacy (surprised?)

"A prisoner or prisoner's lawyer cannot legally obtain these drugs or legally transfer them to the Department. Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, we cannot imagine a way to obtain the drug. Those that obtain controlled substances illegally, go to prison."

As far as Baich or anyone else can determine, Arizona is the only state to even suggest such a thing.

Hey, America, who says the best (meaning worst) governmental craziness is coming out of Washington, D.C.?

Arizona is still in this game, baby!

Not too long ago the DOC got caught trying import from a sketchy foreign source some killer drugs that it hoped to use in executions.

Now, it's actually suggesting that the condemned inmate get his attorneys to participate in his killing.

Beat that, Donald Trump!

"It is hard to comprehend what the ADC was thinking in including this nonsensical, unprecedented provision as part of its execution procedures," Baich told me. "If the state wants to have the death penalty, it has the duty to figure out how to do it constitutionally. The state cannot pass its obligation on to the condemned prisoner."

Maybe any other state cannot or would not do such a thing, but this is Arizona.

We can give it a try.

Source: The Arizona Republic, EJ Montini, February 12, 2017

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