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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…

Nebraska: Ricketts vows to keep working on death penalty without waiting for decision on identifying drug suppliers

Gov. Pete Ricketts
Gov. Pete Ricketts
Gov. Pete Ricketts said Monday he will continue working to restore the death penalty without waiting for lawmakers to decide a bill that would hide the identities of lethal drug suppliers.

The governor said during a State Capitol press conference that there is no timeline for when the Department of Correctional Services might get the lethal injection drugs. The comments were the first Ricketts has made publicly on the topic since last week, when he signed a new execution protocol.

As proposed several months ago, the protocol included a provision that would have allowed the corrections director to withhold the identity of drug suppliers. The final protocol removed the provision in response to comments at a public hearing that the secrecy rule would violate state law while breaking with Nebraska's tradition of open government.

A bill pending in the Legislature would allow state officials to shield the identities of lethal injection drug suppliers. Other states have used secrecy laws or procedures to maintain their drug supplies, saying disclosing the identities of sources subjects them to public pressure from death penalty opponents.

While the governor has said recently that he supports efforts to reinstate the death penalty in Nebraska, on Monday he declined to say whether he supports a lethal injection shield law. Regardless of what the Legislature does with Legislative Bill 661, Ricketts said his administration will move ahead with carrying out the executions of the 10 men on the state's death row.

The revised execution protocol is designed to give the corrections director greater flexibility in obtaining lethal injection drugs.

The former protocol required the department to use three specific drugs in a defined sequence. The new protocol would allow one or more drugs to be used, and it would be left to the corrections director to select the drugs.

Death penalty opponents have predicted that court challenges will delay any executions for months or perhaps years.

The governor on Monday pointed out that 61 percent of Nebraskans rejected the Legislature's 2015 repeal of capital punishment during the November election. Lawmakers overrode the governor's veto to enact the repeal, which in turn prompted Ricketts to help fund a petition drive to put the question on the ballot.

Source: Omaha World Herald, January 31, 2017

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