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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…

Australian government urged to strengthen AFP policy to prevent death penalty cases

Andrew Chan (left) and Myuran Sukumaran in Kerobokan Prison's art studio
Andrew Chan (left) and Myuran Sukumaran in Kerobokan Prison's art studio
The Turnbull government has been urged to strengthen Australian Federal Police policy to prevent citizens being exposed to the death penalty overseas, as Australia marks 50 years since the last execution in the country.

A joint parliamentary committee recommended in May last year that AFP guidelines be amended to include a "stronger focus" on preventing citizens and non-citizens being exposed to the risk of the death penalty in countries including Indonesia and the United States.

On the 50th anniversary of the hanging of Ronald Ryan, who was convicted of shooting a prison officer and became the last man executed in Australia, the Law Council of Australia will call on the government on Friday to adopt the recommendations.

Legal experts have warned existing AFP guidelines, introduced after Bali Nine members Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were sentenced to death in Indonesia, are not strong enough to prevent future executions.

A tip-off from the AFP to the Indonesian National Police led to the Bali Nine's arrest.

Australia opposes the death penalty but current guidelines do not prevent the AFP sharing information with international law enforcement agencies where there is a risk the death penalty may be applied.

The AFP is simply required to "consider" a range of factors in such cases, if it is aware providing the information is "likely to result" in the prosecution of a specific person for an offence carrying the death penalty.

Those factors include the seriousness of the suspected crime and Australia's interest in promoting and securing co-operation from overseas agencies in tackling crime.
The Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade, chaired by former Liberal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, recommended the guidelines be overhauled so the primary aim is to prevent people from Australia or elsewhere being exposed to arrest or charge for crimes likely to attract the death penalty.

The guidelines should also include "a requirement that the AFP seek assurances from foreign law enforcement bodies that the death penalty will not be sought or applied if information is provided", the committee said.

Law Council of Australia president Fiona McLeod, SC, said the guidelines were unclear and it was up to an individual AFP officer's judgment as to "how the various factors are weighted".

"This is particularly unfair to the AFP officer – who is forced to carry the heavy weight of responsibility on their own judgment and conscience," Ms McLeod said.

She said the federal government had been an "outstanding advocate" against the death penalty and should "continue to take the lead".

The death penalty was abolished for Commonwealth offences in Australia in 1973. NSW, which lagged the other states, did not abolish capital punishment until 1985.

Source: smh.com.au, Michaela Whitbourn, Feb. 3, 2017

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