In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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 Supreme Court throws out 2 death sentences

Florida's death chamber
Florida's death chamber
ORLANDO,Fla. - The Florida Supreme Court ordered for two Central Florida convicted murders Thursday to receive new sentencing after throwing out their original death sentences.

Brandon Lee Bradley was convicted of the 2012 killing Brevard County Deputy Barbara Pill. When Bradley shot her, Pill was attempting to stop him after he'd stolen property from a Melbourne hotel and hit another person with his car.

A jury recommended the death penalty by a vote of 10-2. Bradley will receive life without parole if a new jury doesn't unanimously recommend death.

Bradley’s girlfriend, Andria Kerchner, who was in the car with him, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for her role in Pill’s death.

Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey and Seminole-Brevard State Attorney Phil Archer hosted a news conference Thursday at 3:45 p.m. in response to the Supreme Court's decision overturning the death sentence.

Both officials said the death penalty will most likely be pursued once again during Bradley's resentencing. Ivey called Bradley an "evil thug who deserves to die."

“I think Brandon Bradley needs to die for taking the life of Barbara Pill, I don’t make any bones about that. If you execute a law enforcement officer, quite frankly, if you execute anybody in our community, you (deserve the death penalty),” Ivey said.

Archer agreed, adding that while it's frustrating and emotionally exhausting for the victim's family to relive the trauma, he thinks the death penalty is appropriate for someone who committed the “cold, pre-meditated execution of a law enforcement officer.”

“Victim input, family input is one of the most important things to me and I give that great weight, but at the same time we have to do what’s best for the community as well,” Archer said.

Pill was a respected deputy, loving mother and wife and upstanding member of the community, Ivey said.

The second man on death row, Dwayne F. White, was convicted of first-degree murder in the stabbing death of his 43-year-old estranged wife, Sarah Yvonne Rucker.

Rucker was trying to retrieve her stolen cellphone from White when she was last seen in 2011.

Her body was found face-down outside a Miami Subs shop off I-4 in Longwood, according to police.

White was sentenced to death by a jury vote of 8-4.

The Florida Supreme Court ruled last October that a new state law requiring at least a 10-2 jury recommendation was unconstitutional.

Under Florida’s new law signed by Gov. Rick Scott in March, a jury must unanimously vote to sentence a person to death.

Source: WKMG, March 30, 2017

Florida Supreme Court throws out death penalty for man in shooting death of Brevard County deputy

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Supreme Court has thrown out the death penalty in the case of a man convicted of killing a Brevard County deputy.

Deputy Barbara Pill was shot and killed during a traffic stop in 2012.

Brandon Bradley was on probation at the time of the shooting and fleeing from another crime.

Pill had attempted to pull him over after a 911 caller said Bradley had stolen motel furniture.

Bradley refused to get out of the SUV, and instead shot Pill five times as she attempted to get his keys out of the ignition, prosecutors said.

He was found guilty of first-degree murder, robbery, fleeing and eluding, and resisting arrest with violence.

Andrea Kerchner, who was with Bradley during the theft and the shooting, pleaded guilty to accessory and burglary charges. She was sentenced to 12 years in prison, followed by a year of community control and two years of probation.

The state Supreme Court ruled that since the jury’s decision for the death penalty wasn’t unanimous, Bradley will get a new penalty phase.

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Florida’s previous death penalty law gave too much power to the judge to decide the defendant’s sentence to death.

State Attorney Phil Archer admitted he has an uphill battle if he pursues death once again in Bradley’s case.

“Most of the families we’ve talked to so fat have wanted us to again pursue the death penalty and I give that great weight,” Archer said.

He also said pursuing the death penalty is a likely option.

“Let me be very clear. I can not imagine a scenario in which a person executes, in cold blood, a law enforcement officer that he would not seek the death penalty in that case,” Archer said.

Sheriff Wayne Ivey made clear that he still wants justice for Pill’s family.

“Let there be no doubt about it—Brandon Bradley is an evil thug who needs to die for taking the life of Barbara Pill,” he said.

Archer said bringing cases back for resentencing entails almost a whole new trial because the new jury will not have heard the evidence that led to a conviction.

Also, prosecutors will have to get a unanimous death decision, and Archer said there are usually one or two hold outs.

Source: WFTV, March 30, 2017

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