In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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…

Justice Ginsburg Speaks About Electoral College, Death Penalty at Stanford Lecture

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The 24-year Supreme Court veteran said if it was up to her there would be no death penalty or Electoral College

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke at Stanford University on Monday night, broaching several topics from feminism to the death penalty to the political divide in our nation today.

The theme during the annual Rathbun lecture at Stanford Memorial church was "A Meaningful Life," and Ginsburg certainly could speak from experience.

Ginsburg, who's been on the U.S. Supreme Court for 24 years, was not allowed to speak about any issues that are or will likely be in front of the high court, so that left a lot of room for Ginsburg herself.

"Someday, there will be great people, great elected representatives, who will say enough of this nonsense, let's be the kind of Legislature the United States should have," she told the gathering. "I hope I'm still alive."

Ginsburg said if it was up to her, and only her, there would be no death penalty or Electoral College. 

She also addressed what she sees as a hidden aspect of racism and sexism.

"Unconscious bias," she said, "it's not so easy to overcome."

She identified the part of the U.S. Constitution that she holds most dear.

"That right to speak your mind and not worry about Big Brother government coming down on you and telling you the right way," she said.

Ginsburg's admirers had nothing but praise after the speech.

"Think outside of yourself, act outside of yourself and try to fix the tears in our community. That resonated!" said Kim Navarro, of San Francisco.

Michelle Pacione, of Palo Alto, said hearing from wise figures such as Ginsburg is welcome and necessary in times like these.

"We need women to kind of step up because there is still a lot of things that need to change in order for there to be equality," Pacione said.

Source: NBC Bay Area, Terry McSweeney and Stephen Ellison, February 6, 2017

Supreme Court Justice Ginsburg talks Congress, death penalty and “a meaningful life” at Stanford

What makes a meaningful life for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

“To put it simply, it means doing something outside yourself,” she said Monday night at Stanford’s Memorial Church, in conversation with the university’s The Rev. Professor Jane Shaw, dean for religious life.

“I tell law students … if you are going to be a lawyer and just practice your profession, you have a skill — very much like a plumber,” she said. “But if you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself … something that makes life a little better for people less fortunate than you.”

Welcomed with thunderous applause, she opened by reading from her book, citing relationship advice (“sometimes it helps to be a little deaf”), her father-in-law’s career advice (“you will find a way”), raising children (“I returned to the law books with renewed will”) and her devotion to her husband (“without him, I would not have gained a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.”)

The 83-year-old did not volunteer her opinion about President Donald Trump’s nomination of Colorado federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, nor the legal controversies over the administration’s temporary immigration ban on seven Muslim-majority countries. Last summer she drew criticism, and later apologized, for saying she feared for the country and the court if Trump was elected.

But she mourned the loss of collegiality that was once part of Capitol Hill, and a cherished friendship with the conservative Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah.

“I wish there was a way I could wave a magic wand and put it back when people respected each other, and voted for the good of the country and not just along party lines. Someday there will be great representatives who will say ‘Enough of this nonsense. … I hope that day comes when I’m still alive.”

When asked what she would like to change: “the electoral college!”

​She decried the death penalty, saying “If ​I were queen​,​ there would be ​no death penalty​,” but praised the nation’s recent reduction of executions​.

The oldest justice by more than three years, and one of the four reliably liberal jurists on the court, a student teased her about eating more kale. Then she was asked: Who she would like to see eat kale? “Justice Kennedy!” she deadpanned.

A long line of students waited to ask questions. “It was such a pleasure to hear her go off script. I loved getting to hear from her more directly,” said alumnae Eliza Ridgeway of Sunnyvale.

Ginsburg’s lecture is part of a series created in memory of late Stanford law professor Harry Rathbun, who delivered his distinguished “Last Lecture” every year from the 1930s to the 1950s. In years in which a lecture is scheduled, the Office for Religious Life chooses a speaker to visit campus and talk about the various paths to building a meaningful life.

Previous iterations of the lecture featured former Secretary of State George Shultz, the 14th Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey and Ginsburg’s former colleague on the Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor. ​The lecture was established by The Foundation for Global Community​.

She spoke fondly of former justice O’Connor, calling her “as close to being a big sister to me as one could wish for.” O’Connor, who survived breast cancer, advised Ginsburg after chemotherapy treatment for colorectal cancer: “Be sure to get it for Friday so you can get over it during the weekend.”

In a far reaching conversation, she cited music she couldn’t live without: Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Don Giovanni.” She confided her childhood role models: Amelia Earhart and the fictional heroine Nancy Drew. She recounted a New Year’s Eve dinner with late Justice Antonin Scalia, when her husband struggled to find a good recipe for wild boar.

​She described her attitude toward combating cancer: “Never have a defeatist atti​tude ​… and
I’m going to surmount this​.” The most important person in her life? “My personal trainer,” she joked.

To the delight of the crowd, Ginsburg showed off her tote bag with the motto: “I dissent.”

When asked, 100 years from now, how she would like to be remembered:

“That I was a judge who worked as hard as she could to the best of her ability — to do the job right.”

Source: East Bay Times, Lisa Krieger, February 7, 2017

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