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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…

Wyoming kills death penalty repeal

The bill to repeal Wyoming's Death Penalty is no longer being taken under consideration in the Legislature's House.

House Bill 240 (HB 240), sponsored by Representative Marti Halverson proposed a complete repeal of Wyoming's death penalty law.

"I'm pretty adamantly opposed to the death penalty, so I thought that this [House Bill 240] was great." UW Professor of Philosophy Edward Sherline said.

According to the Wyoming Constitution, a person convicted of murder in the 1st degree can be punished by death, life imprisonment without parole or life imprisonment, with the exception of persons under the age of 18, who will not be given the death penalty. The present form of execution in Wyoming is death by lethal injection.

Representative Mark Baker, co-sponsor of HB 240, said that as of Feb. 15, the bill did not meet the cut-off date and is indefinitely postponed for the session.

Sherline said the death penalty has not had a significant impact on Wyoming, however, he still opposes it. The last person to be executed in Wyoming was Mark Hopkinson in 1992 and the last person sentenced to death row was Dale Wayne Eaton in 2004.

Since 2014 Judge Alan B. Johnson has overturned Eaton's sentencing on the grounds that Eaton received poor representation, which was due to the Wyoming Public Defender's office's lack of funding. At this time no one is on death row in Wyoming or being tried for the death penalty, according to the Death Penatly Information Center's website.

"I wouldn't have cared otherwise, how would it affect me?" Brian Halsey, a Political Science and History student at UW said. "It [the death penalty] doesn't dictate my everyday life so why should I worry about it? In Wyoming it is okay because it won't really be used in a state with a population of 500,000."

A bill was considered in the 2015 session to replace the state's backup method of execution. The bill would have replaced the gas chamber with a firing squad as an alternative in the event that lethal injection is not available.

A bill to eliminate the death penalty will not be considered this year, however, this may still be a step in that direction.

"Maybe this is just the 1st step in the door." Sherline said.

Source: The (Univ. Wyo.) Branding Iron, February 20, 2017

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