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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…

Ohio death-row inmate Patrick Leonard commits suicide

Patrick Leonard
Patrick Leonard
An Ohio man condemned to die for the slaying of his former girlfriend has killed himself on death row, the state prisons agency said Monday.

Inmate Patrick Leonard died Sunday night of an apparent suicide on death row in Chillicothe, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction said in an email to The Associated Press.

Leonard was sentenced to death for the 2000 killing of his ex-girlfriend, 23-year-old Dawn Flick, in Hamilton County.

The 47-year-old Leonard was angry at Flick for ending their relationship and refusing to reconcile, according to court records.

Records say Leonard handcuffed Flick, tried to rape her and shot her three times.

Leonard was unusual among death row inmates in that he did not have a previous criminal record.

“Prior to this incident, Leonard was not considered violent and had not been in trouble with police,” the Ohio Supreme Court noted in a 2004 ruling upholding his death sentence. “The fact that Leonard had committed these crimes was described as shocking and extremely out of character.”

Leonard didn’t have a scheduled execution date.

The last death row suicide in Ohio was in 2013, when Billy Slagle hanged himself just days before his scheduled execution. Slagle used a belt in his cell on death row, also at Chillicothe Correctional Institution.

In a note, Slagle called his nearly three decades in prison torture and said he was taking his destiny into his own hands, according to a State Highway Patrol report.

Three years after the execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire made international news, Ohio is once again delaying carrying out the death penalty as it deals with legal hurdles.

Ohio is appealing the ruling that U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Michael Merz in Dayton issued in December that put an indefinite hold on three scheduled executions. 

In the meantime, Gov. John Kasich, who supports capital punishment, pushed back execution dates for two inmates: Ronald Phillips and Raymond Tibbetts.

Phillips, Tibbetts and other Death Row inmates are challenging a new Ohio law that keeps secret the source of lethal injection drugs. Their attorneys argue that they can’t adequately challenge the use of the drugs without access to the information.

Ohio has 32 executions scheduled between 2017 and 2021.

Ohio has 138 inmates on Death Row.

Source: Associated Press, March 6, 2017

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