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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…

Idaho death row inmate found dead in his prison cell

Zane Jack Fields
Zane Jack Fields
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho Maximum Security Institution inmate who has spent more than 25 years on death row was found dead in his prison cell on Monday morning, of apparent natural causes.

Zane Jack Fields, 58, was found unresponsive in his cell about 7 a.m., the Idaho Department of Corrections said. Prison staff initiated first aid, but Fields was pronounced dead an hour later, the agency said.

Fields was one of nine people awaiting execution in Idaho.

As in all cases of unattended deaths at the prison, the Ada County Sheriff's Office processed Fields' cell as a crime scene. The Ada County Coroner's Office will determine the cause of death.

Fields was sentenced to death in 1991 in Ada County for the 1988 stabbing of Mary Catherine Vanderford, 69, while robbing her gift shop in Boise. He got away with $50.

Fields was charged more than a year later after telling a fellow jail inmate that he killed Vanderford. Fields was in jail at the time on an aggravated assault conviction.

Fourth District Judge Gerald Schroeder sentenced him to death in 1991, saying Fields showed "utter disregard for human life."

The number of death row inmates in Idaho has been dwindling. Of the more than 40 people sentenced of death since capital punishment was reinstated in the 1970s, only three have been executed, the last in 2012. Eight people remain on death row.

Many others have had their sentences reduced to life imprisonment. Two were released after their convictions were overturned. Two previously died in prison.

Death row inmates are kept in solitary confinement. They remain inside their 12-foot by seven-foot cells for 23 hours a day, and they can spend one hour outside in a similarly sized cage. They are escorted out of their cells for showers, medical appointments and meetings with attorneys.

Source: ISJ, March 27, 2017

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