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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…

Japan: Court upholds acquittal for man sentenced to death for arson-murders

OSAKA — The Osaka High Court has upheld a lower court decision that acquitted a man who had previously been sentenced to death for murdering his daughter-in-law and her son before setting fire to their apartment in Osaka in 2002.

Takemitsu Mori, a 59-year-old prison guard on administrative leave, was acquitted by the Osaka District Court in March 2012 after the Supreme Court ordered a retrial by repealing a high court decision that sentenced him to death, a rare decision by the country’s highest court.

The focus of the case was what to make of circumstantial evidence presented by prosecutors, while the defendant consistently denied the charges, saying he had never entered the apartment of the woman and her son.

Presiding Judge Shinichiro Fukuzaki rejected the prosecutor’s claim that Mori has been to the apartment because he knew the location of furniture in their apartment. The judge said the defendant could have assumed the room arrangement from conversations with his family after the incident.

Mori was arrested in November 2002, seven months after Mayumi Mori, 28, and her 1-year-old son Toma were found dead in their apartment in Osaka’s Hirano Ward on April 14 that year. The woman was found strangled and her son drowned.

In April 2010, the Supreme Court rejected both the life sentence handed down by a district court and the death penalty by a high court, judging it necessary to see facts that can only be explained if the defendant had in fact committed the crime.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, the Osaka District Court found Mori not guilty, saying there was no evidence that proved the defendant had entered the apartment on the day of the incident.

In the latest examination at the high court, a DNA analysis of a dog harness, claimed by prosecutors to be the murder weapon, was conducted but did not find any link to Mori.

The prosecutors requested a review of the lower court’s acquittal as saliva found on a cigarette butt discovered in a staircase at the apartment matched Mori’s DNA and an eyewitness saw a car of the same type and color as Mori’s near the apartment.

The defense counsel asked the court to reject the appeal, arguing that the court was presented with no credible evidence showing that the cigarette butt was discarded on the day of the incident.

Source: Japan Today, March 3, 2017

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