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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: Man sentenced to death for killing 5 neighbors on Awaji Island

Gallows trap door, Tokyo Detention Center, Japan
Gallows trap door, Tokyo Detention Center, Japan
KOBE — A court sentenced a 42-year-old man to death Wednesday for killing five people on Awaji Island in western Japan in 2015.

The defendant Tatsuhiko Hirano’s mental condition was “normal” when he carried out the killings, Presiding Judge Hidenori Nagai said in handing down the ruling at the Kobe District Court. 

Hirano’s lawyers immediately appealed the ruling.

The focus of the trial was whether Hirano was mentally competent enough to be held responsible for his actions. He had argued during the trial that the case was a “false accusation plotted by ‘operatives’ who destroyed my brain and forced me to commit the murders.”

His lawyers, who had sought acquittal or a lesser punishment, had said he was unable to make normal decisions because of a psychotropic drug he had been taking.

Hirano was accused of fatally stabbing five neighbors with a knife in two separate homes in Sumoto, Hyogo Prefecture, on March 9, 2015. 

The victims were three women and two men aged between 59 and 84.

He was committed to hospital in 2005 and 2010 after being judged by local authorities to be a danger to the public due to mental illness.

The prosecutors, in seeking capital punishment, highlighted the fact that “he took the lives of five people who did nothing wrong.”

Pointing to the brutality of the case and the numerous stab wounds on the victims, they said the influence of the psychotropic drug the defendant had been using for a long time was “limited.”

Source: Japan Today, March 23, 2017

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