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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…

Sri Lankan President commutes death sentences of 60 inmates to life

Feb 02, Colombo: Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena has decided to commute the sentences of 60 prisoners in death row to life sentences prisoners on account of the 69th Independence Day on February 04.

President Sirisena has taken the decision to spare the lives of the prisoners based on the recommendations made by a Committee appointed by the Ministry of Justice and headed by retired Supreme Court Judge Nimal Dissanayake.

The Committee was appointed to review and report whether the death sentences on death row prisoners should be commuted to life imprisonment. 

Accordingly, the Committee has recommended commuting the sentences of 60 prisoners to life imprisonment effective from February 04.

The death row convicts will be considered for parole only after they served a minimum sentence of 20 years and their pleas for any relief will be referred to the parole board once in four years after that.

Although Sri Lankan courts give death penalty in serious crimes such as murder, rape and drug trafficking, no executions have been carried out since 1976. 

All death penalty cases have been commuted to life in prison.

Source: Colombo Page, Feb. 2, 2017

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