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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…

Already Facing Death, Dylann Roof Cuts Deal for Added Life Term

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Eleven weeks after a federal jury condemned Dylann S. Roof to death for killing nine worshipers at a black church in Charleston, S.C., state prosecutors announced on Friday that they would end a separate case by allowing him to plead guilty to murder in exchange for a life sentence.

After the Bible study massacre in June 2015 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the state and federal governments each announced they would seek to execute the avowed white supremacist.

A state grand jury indicted him for murder and attempted murder while a federal grand jury charged him with 33 counts, including hate crimes resulting in death, obstruction of exercise of religion and use of a firearm to commit murder.

Mr. Roof said in a remorseless confession and in various writings that he planned the attack in hopes of fomenting a race war.

But federal prosecutors beat their state counterparts to court, leaving Scarlett A. Wilson, the chief prosecutor for Charleston County, to decide whether to put survivors and victims’ families through a second traumatic trial, at taxpayer expense, in pursuit of a duplicate sentence.

As had been expected since the end of the federal trial in January, Ms. Wilson concluded that the 18 death sentences from that case would suffice.

Last year, the Justice Department rejected Mr. Roof’s offer to plead guilty to the federal charges in exchange for a life sentence. Mr. Roof, who represented himself for part of his case and presented no evidence in his defense during his federal trial, has filed a motion in federal court seeking a new trial.

Ms. Wilson announced her decision in a letter and telephone calls to family members of the victims. Mr. Roof’s state public defender, D. Ashley Pennington, confirmed the details.

Ms. Wilson said in an interview that Mr. Roof, 22, would plead guilty at a hearing on April 10 to nine counts of murder and three counts of attempted murder (two adults and a child survived). He then would be transferred from the Charleston County jail to a federal prison.

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Source: The New York Times, Kevin Sack, March 31, 2017

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