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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…

Vietnam sentences 9 men to death for drug trafficking

Vietnam (file photo)
Vietnam has sentenced nine drug traffickers to death for smuggling nearly half a tonne (500 kilograms) of heroin into the country from Laos, a local government report said Wednesday.

Nine others were jailed for life over the massive drug bust and "all illegal profits were seized", according to the official newspaper of the Hoa Binh provincial government.

The traffickers smuggled the drugs from neighbouring Laos for resale in China and pocketed $670,000 between 2012 and 2016, according to a separate report by the state-run Vietnam News Agency which gave no further details.

Communist Vietnam has some of the world's toughest anti-drug laws. 

Anyone found guilty of possessing more than 600 grams (21 ounces) of heroin, or more than 20 kilograms of opium, can face the death penalty.

The "Golden Triangle" region covering parts of Laos, Thailand and Myanmar is one of the world's top producers of opium, and heroin and other drugs are often smuggled into Vietnam from the region.

In January 2014 30 drug smugglers were sentenced to death in Vietnam's largest narcotics case, after nearly two tonnes of heroin was seized.

Governments in Southeast Asia's Mekong region have vowed to redouble efforts to tackle the rampant trade in heroin and methamphetamines.

But crackdowns are hindered by the soaring demand for drugs, corrupt officialdom and the long, porous jungle borders between the neighbours.

Source: Agence France-Presse, March 22, 2017

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