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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…

Florida Prosecutor Sues Gov. Rick Scott For Taking Her Off Death Penalty Cases

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Florida Governor Rick Scott
State Attorney Aramis Ayala says the governor is violating her constitutional rights.

An elected prosecutor in Florida who has declined to seek the death penalty in a pair of high-profile murder cases is now suing the Florida governor for removing her from those cases and assigning them to a prosecutor from another district.

State Attorney Aramis Ayala, who serves Osceola and Orange counties, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday claiming that Gov. Rick Scott (R) violated her constitutional rights when he signed a series of executive orders directing her reassignment from 23 murder cases in which she wouldn’t be pursuing the death penalty.

In one statement condemning Ayala, Scott said her refusal to rely on capital punishment in these prosecutions “sends an unacceptable message that she is not interested in considering every available option in the fight for justice.”

Ayala is the first elected African-American state attorney in Florida history. She was elected to serve a four-year term in November.

“The Governor did not take this drastic step because of any misconduct on Ayala’s part, but simply because he disagreed with her reasoned prosecutorial determination not to seek the death penalty under current circumstances,” said Ayala’s federal complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for for the Middle District of Florida.

Ayala made waves in March when she concluded that she would not seek a death sentence for Markeith Loyd, who was indicted for the murders of a pregnant 24-year-old and a police officer in separate incidents in December and January.

“What has become abundantly clear through this process is that while I currently do have discretion to pursue death sentences,” Ayala said at the time, “I have determined that doing so is not in the best interest of this community or the best interest of justice.”

That move set off Scott, who signed an executive order that effectively took her off the Loyd prosecution and reassigned the case to Brad King, a state attorney who serves a different judicial circuit covering different counties and voters than those that elected Ayala.


Source: Huffington Post, Cristian Farias, April 11, 2017

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