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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…

Florida: Judge sides with governor in prosecutor removal over death penalty

State Attorney Aramis Ayala
State Attorney Aramis Ayala
Florida's governor has the right to remove a state attorney from a case after the prosecutor said she would not seek the death penalty, a judge said Tuesday as he denied a request to delay the proceedings.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala said earlier this month that she wouldn't seek the death penalty for a man charged in the December slayings of his ex-girlfriend and a police officer.

After her announcement, Republican Gov. Rick Scott removed her from the case and appointed a new prosecutor.

Ayala, a Democrat, said the governor overstepped his authority and she is fighting to keep the case. Ayala has said there is no evidence that shows the death penalty improves public safety and it's costly and drags on for years for the victims' families.

She asked a judge to delay proceedings for 2 weeks while she prepares an argument for the Florida Supreme Court. But Chief Justice Frederick J. Lauten denied her request Tuesday and said State Attorney Brad King, who was appointed by the governor, will remain as the chief prosecutor.

The judge said Ayala can still file her argument with the high court, but the case against Markeith Loyd would move ahead, with the next hearing scheduled for Monday. Loyd is charged with the 1st-degree murder in the killings of his pregnant ex-girlfriend Sade Dixon and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton.

Loyd, who has previously cursed at judges during previous court appearances, was subdued during the hearing Tuesday. He objected to Ayala being removed from the case.

Ayala, who is the 1st elected African-American state attorney in Florida, said in court documents that the governor's actions are unprecedented and his interference in the decision-making by state attorneys could undermine Florida's judicial system.

Source: news-journalonline.com, March 29, 2017

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