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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…

'Alarming' executions in Vietnam: Amnesty

Secrecy around executions continues to plague some Southeast Asian countries, with newly released figures showing the "disturbing" use of the death penalty in Vietnam, Amnesty International says.

At least 1032 people were executed worldwide in 2016, while at least 3117 were sentenced to death, according to Amnesty International's global report released on Tuesday.

The figures, while alarming, are considerably less than the reality because they exclude the thousands of executions believed to have taken place in China.

This secrecy continues to plague some countries in Southeast Asia.

Like China, Amnesty says Vietnam continues to classify figures on the death penalty as state secrets.

However, according to the report, new information obtained this year reveal executions have been carried out at a higher rate than previously understood.

In February 2017, Vietnam media reported statistics by the ministry of public security showing 429 people had been executed between August 2013 and June 2016, at an average rate of 147 executions a year.

"(This) placed Vietnam over a 3-year period as effectively the 3rd-biggest executioner in the world," Amnesty International's deputy director of global issues, James Lynch, told AAP, putting it behind China and Iran.

The figures raise as many questions as they answer - with no context provided as to what people were executed for, when they took place or the details of their cases' legal proceedings.

"Secrecy is a huge concern, not only Vietnam but also Malaysia ... when new information comes to light it is disturbing, the number of executions were higher again than people had expected. The size of death row was higher than expected," Mr Lynch said.

"There needs to be a much more structured program of transparency about the imposition of the death penalty to allow for a more informed debate."

Also of concern in the region were calls by the Philippines government to reintroduce the death penalty as a measure to tackle crime and threats to national security.

It's a step backward for Southeast Asia, where the Philippines has been a key abolitionist.

Source: The Weekly Times, April 11, 2017

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