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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…

Iran commutes death sentences of six juvenile offenders

Iran: Medieval and barbaric punishments
Iran: Medieval and barbaric punishments
UN says Iran executing people who had committed crimes as children at ‘an unprecedented rate’

Tehran: Iran has commuted death sentences against six juvenile offenders following UN criticism it was executing people who had committed crimes as children at “an unprecedented rate”, a report said on Thursday.

Prosecutors asked the judiciary to reconsider 10 cases, the Shahrvand newspaper quoted Tehran chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi as saying.

“Six requests were accepted and their death sentences overturned,” he said.

International conventions outlaw the death penalty for offences committed by minors but Iranian law allows executions of those convicted of such offences once they reach 18.

However, it also allows for death sentences to be commuted to compensation to victims’ families if it is determined that the juvenile offenders did not understand the full gravity of their actions.

Shahrvand did not specify what the judiciary decided in the other four cases referred to it.

Last week, UN human rights experts appealed to Iran to cancel the looming execution of Hamid Ahmadi who was 17 when he was sentenced to death in 2009 for the fatal stabbing of a young man during a fight.

They said that last month they intervened to halt the execution of another juvenile offender, and that they had learnt too late that two others were hanged on January 15 and 18.

Source: Agence France-Presse, February 9, 2017

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