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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…

Pakistani court frees Islamic preacher sentenced to death for blasphemy

"Laws used to settle personal scores or grudges"
"Laws used to settle personal scores or grudges"
ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani court freed an Islamic preacher who was sentenced to death four years ago on charges of blasphemy, a defense lawyer said Tuesday.

Chaudhry Mehmood Akhtar said that a judge in the city of Rawalpindi acquitted Mohammad Ishaq on Friday after finding him "completely innocent" of insulting Islam.

Ishaq was custodian at a shrine in Punjab province when he was arrested and sentenced to death in 2013 after a citizen accused him of claiming in conversation to actually be God.

"My client is a practicing Muslim and he was a victim of false charges. Now I am doing the paperwork to get him out of a jail," Akhtar told The Associated Press.

Under Pakistan's blasphemy laws, anyone accused of insulting God, Islam or religious personalities can be sentenced to death. 

However the laws are also sometimes used to settle personal scores or grudges.

Human rights groups have called for amending Pakistan's harsh blasphemy laws, which are often misused against the country's minority Christian community. 

In 2015, a Muslim mob beat a Christian couple to death and burned their bodies for allegedly desecrating the Quran.

Source: The Associated Press, February 28, 2017

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