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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…

Executions to Resume in Arkansas

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an attempt by Arkansas inmates to stop their executions over claims that their deaths would be "intolerably painful."

The 9 inmates asked the justices to review an Arkansas Supreme Court decision upholding a law that keeps secret the source of the lethal injection drugs. 

The nation's highest court handed down decisions in a number of death row cases Tuesday.

Arkansas will not be able to immediately resume executions. One of three lethal injection drugs expired last month and has not been replaced, and the attorney general still must certify to Gov. Asa Hutchinson that all legal road blocks have been cleared and that executions may proceed.

"I will immediately provide the (U.S. Supreme) Court's order to the Arkansas Supreme Court, and once the clerk issues the mandate, the current injunction on executions will automatically be lifted," Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said. "Thereafter, I will inform Governor Hutchinson that executions may resume and request that dates be set for those who have exhausted all appeals."

Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005 because of legal challenges and the difficulty of obtaining execution drugs. One of Arkansas' execution drugs, potassium chloride, expired Jan. 1 and has not been replaced.

"Today's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court sets the stage for execution in the specified cases to proceed," Hutchinson said. "I will proceed in accordance with law and in a timely manner. Since (the) 'use by' date on one of the drugs has expired it will be necessary for the Department of Correction to make the acquisition."

Under a 3-step procedure listed in state guidelines, executioners would first use midazolam to calm and sedate the inmate, then use vecuronium bromide to paralyze the inmate and stop the inmate's breathing, then administer potassium chloride to stop the heart.

Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig says the inmates are disappointed by the decision and that their lawyers are studying their options.

Source: Associated Press, February 22, 2017


Executions to Resume in Arkansas


A high court ruling in the nation's capital Tuesday means executions can resume in Arkansas.

The U.S. Supreme Court's denied a petition for writ of certiorari by a group of Arkansas death row inmates concerning the State's method of execution. There are 34 men on death row in Arkansas.

Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge released the following statement after the ruling was announced:

"Today's decision from the nation's high court ends this case, which means that executions can move forward in Arkansas, and families of the victims will see justice carried out for those who committed heinous crimes against their loved ones," said Attorney General Rutledge. "I will immediately provide the Court's order to the Arkansas Supreme Court, and once the clerk issues the mandate, the current injunction on executions will automatically be lifted. Thereafter, I will inform Governor Hutchinson that executions may resume and request that dates be set for those who have exhausted all appeals."

Governor Asa Hutchinson also released a statement on the court's decision:

"Today's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court sets the stage for execution in the specified cases to proceed. The next step is for the mandate to issue and upon notice by the Attorney General for the dates to be set. I will proceed in accordance with law and in a timely manner. Since 'use by' date on 1 of the drugs has expired it will be necessary for the Department of Correction to make the acquisition."

In a related ruling Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up a challenge to Alabama's method of lethal injection, which employs a drug used by at least 4 other states to carry out the death penalty.

Thomas Arthur, who faces execution for killing a man in a murder-for-hire-scheme, contended that the state's use of a drug called midazolam amounts to cruel and unusual punishment because it does not reliably induce a condition of deep unconsciousness, leaving a condemned prisoner susceptible to searing pain caused by follow-on injections of other chemicals intended to cause death.

Source: nwahomepage.com, February 22, 2017

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