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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…

Not a fair trial, claims family of Malaysian to hang in Singapore

Changi Prison, Singapore
Changi Prison, Singapore
KUALA LUMPUR: The family of a Malaysian man sentenced to hang in Singapore has filed a judicial review at the KL High Court, claiming he had been deprived of a fair trial.

Datchinamurthy Kataiah, 32, was convicted of trafficking 44g of heroine across the Causeway from Johor to Singapore in January 2011, and was sentenced to death in April 2015.

With the judicial review, Datchinamurthy and his mother Letchumi Arumugam are asking the Malaysian Government to refer the case to the International Court.

They are also seeking a declaration from the Malaysian Government and its Foreign Ministry that they are legally obliged to protect and give Datchinamurthy a right to a fair trial and/or right to life and liberty.

“We are alleging that he was denied a fair trial in Singapore,” lawyer N. Surendran told reporters at the lobby of the KL Court Complex here on Friday.

“All appeals have been exhausted and it is urgent that the application is heard and that the Government takes the necessary steps,” he added.

Surendran said that there was a co-accused, a Singaporean woman, involved in Datchinamurthy’s case.

“The Singapore Attorney General (AG) gave her a certificate of cooperation ... that gave her a life sentence. The certificate was not given to Datchinamurthy,” he said.

“That itself raises issues relating to (a fair trial). The whole system is unfair; it’s not up to AG to decide who lives or dies.

“The (Malaysian) Government should be doing everything necessary to protect Malaysians overseas facing serious trouble. A human life is at stake here,” Surendran added.

Singapore anti-death penalty campaign representative M. Ravi said the issue is not about the death penalty per se, but the fairness in the process.

“(Singapore) law gives the AG the power to decide who lives and who dies,” he said.

Ravi said the AG can give a certificate of cooperation so that an accused can be re-sentenced.

“If you don’t get the certificate, you don’t get to be heard in court. That is a violation of international law and it affects a fair trial,” he said.

Datchinamurthy’s mother Letchumi said that she could not accept her son’s death penalty.

“The trial was not fair ... the process was never done properly. It is something that he can’t accept and I can’t accept,” she said.

“I hope my country Malaysia would do something to help me. I am not just asking for myself, there are also other Malaysians on death row,” she added.

Letchumi said that lives hang in the balance, and she urged the Malaysian Government to fight for her son.

“My son was unfairly punished. I beg and plead to everyone, please fight for my son; please stop this.

“Save my son, save my son from the noose. He is not a terrorist,” she added.

Leong Sze Hian, president of Singapore human rights non-governmental organisation Maruah, said that according to the latest statistics, there are 24 people on death row in Singapore, of which nine are Malaysians.

“I believe two have already been executed,” said Leong.

Kho Jabing from Sarawak was hanged in Singapore in May last year after a five-panel Court of Appeal dismissed an eleventh-hour attempt to stay the execution.

Jabing, 31, was found guilty of killing a Chinese construction worker with a tree branch during a robbery attempt in 2008.

Source: The Star, Victoria Brown, February 3, 2017

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