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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…

Nevada lawmakers introduce bill to end death penalty

Nevada's death chamber
Nevada's death chamber
Assemblyman James Ohrenschall and Sen. Tick Segerblom, both Las Vegas Democrats, on Friday introduced Assembly Bill 237, which would abolish capital punishment in Nevada.

If enacted, the bill will set life without the possibility of parole as the maximum punishment for crime. In doing so, any current sentences to death would be commuted to life without parole.

When asked to provide some background for the bill, co-sponsor Segerblom said it was submitted not only from a moral standpoint, but as a matter of practicality.

"It's costing the state millions of dollars to try to kill people, when in fact the system does not allow you to kill people," he said. "The fact is that given the way the process works, the number of appeals, no one is going to be executed in Nevada in our lifetime.

"Meanwhile, to try to execute somebody, the cost for prosecution doubles, you have to hire twice as many lawyers, a psychiatrist, and the legal fees just go from there."

According to 2016 statistics provided by the Death Penalty Information Center, Nevada had 80 inmates on death row in Ely but the last execution was in April of 2006. This high number can be attributed to 2 principle factors. The 1st is a lack of availability of lethal injection drugs. After the 2015 session allocated $860,000 for a new, ADA-compliant execution chamber, the state could not find a pharmaceutical company to supply the necessary drugs out of the 247 that were asked for proposals.

Many pharmaceutical companies have steered away from production of lethal injection drugs because of a series of lawsuits within the last 15 years, questioning not only the legality of the death penalty, but protocols for lethal injection and ethics of supplying the drug.

The 2nd reason is the unlimited appeals allowed upon being sentenced to death. Because Nevada Revised Statute does not enumerate a limit on appeals of an execution sentencing, the 12 individuals executed since 1979 have all been voluntarily executed. All other inmates have spent the remainder of their lives on death row submitting appeals.

With the strong Democratic majority in the Legislature, leadership is confident they will see the bill through to the desk of Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The Republican caucus declined to comment on the bill at this time. The bill was assigned to the Assembly Committee on Judiciary, where it will be heard within the coming weeks.

Source: Elko Free Press, February 27, 2017

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