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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…

Bali nine family critical of Turnbull government death penalty decision

The bodies of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran arrive home in Australia.
The bodies of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran arrive home in Australia.
The family of executed Bali nine drug smuggler Andrew Chan says the Turnbull government is putting more Australians at risk of the firing squad by turning its back on a plan to change police intelligence rules.

The government has quietly rejected a recommendation made by a parliamentary committee last year that would have banned the Australian Federal Police from sharing drug crime information with foreign countries unless they could first obtain assurances the death penalty would not be applied.

The AFP – widely condemned for tipping off Indonesian authorities about Chan and Myuran Sukumaran's Bali nine heroin plot – would have to take a much more careful approach under the system.

It was one of the main proposals put forward by the bipartisan committee - led by former Liberal MP and anti-death penalty campaigner Philip Ruddock - formed in the wake of the 2015 executions of Chan and Sukumaran. The prohibition would have applied to Australians and foreigners alike.

But in a formal response, the government said the proposal was impractical because Australia's foreign law enforcement partners could not provide such assurances and it would be "inappropriate" to seek undertakings from prosecutors.

"Combating serious drug crimes is a high priority for the government and the government's ability to detect, deter and prevent drug crimes would be impeded if Australia could not co-operate with states in the region that retain the death penalty," the document said.

"An inability to co-operate with foreign law enforcement partners poses risk of harm to the Australian community and significant impact to society."

Official police figures released under Freedom of Information laws in 2015 showed the AFP puts hundreds of people at risk of the death penalty every year – 95 per cent of them for drug offences – with its information sharing.

But Michael Chan said if the proposal had been in place in 2005 his brother might still be alive today.
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Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Adam Gartrell, March 3, 2017

Related content: Bali Nine execution saga could recur: Amnesty, March 1, 2017

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