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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…

Serial killer sisters Renuka Shinde and Seema Gavit who abducted and murdered children in bid to avoid execution

Seema Mohan Gavit (red sari) and Renuka Shinde
Seema Mohan Gavit (red sari) and Renuka Shinde
SERIAL killer sisters Seema Gavit and Renuka Shinde are making a last desperate bid to avoid execution for abducting and murdering multiple children aged under five years old.

The sisters, who with their mother abducted or brutally murdered up to 13 children, are due to become the first women hanged in India for 72 years.

On death row in Yerawada Central Jail in the western Indian city of Pune, the sisters are incarcerated for the crimes which they committed while aged in their 20s.

The sisters’ lawyer Sudeep Jaiswal told news.com.au exclusively that the two women — known as the Gavit sisters — hoped to have their death penalty commuted to life in prison.

Speaking from his chambers in Nagpur, Mr Jaiswal described plans to execute the sisters as “a barbaric act”.

Yerawada jail has its own gallows and the “anda”, an egg-shaped cell where condemned prisoners are held and weighed before being hanged.

Mr Jaiswal, who belongs to a prominent Indian legal and cricket-playing family, is reputed for his skills in getting murderers off or avoiding the death penalty.

The Gavit sisters have exhausted all court appeals against their death sentence, and had the Indian president reject a plea for mercy.

They have also launched a petition claiming that the delay in execution has caused them “immense mental torture, emotional and physical agony”.

It was in 1996 that police arrested Seema Gavit, 25, Renuka Shinde, 29, her husband Kiran Shinde and the girls’ mother Anjana Bai Gavit.

Anjana, who died in prison the year after her arrest, was the matriarch of the family who operated a theft and pickpocket racket.

They stole from people mainly in the streets of India’s ninth largest city Pune, in Maharashtra state, 40 per cent of whose population live in slums.

But two events were to turn Anjana into something more sinister, a kidnapper and murderer with her daughters as assistants.

A cold-eyed criminal, she had been arrested for 125 cases of petty theft including pick pocketing and snatching people’s gold chains from around their necks at railway stations, Anjana had become a thief after her first husband, a truck driver, deserted her after the birth of Renuka.

Then her second husband, a retired soldier named Mohan Gavit, left her after the birth of Seema. He married another woman named Pratima and the couple had a baby girl.

In 1990, Anjana, 58, ordered her daughters to abduct Mohan and Pratima’s daughter, Kranti, who she murdered.

Around the same time, Renuka was with her toddler son Aashish in the process of pickpocketing someone in a temple complex when the victim caught her.

An angry crowd surrounded Renuka, but using the boy as a foil, Renuka said “How can a woman with a child commit a crime?”.

The crowd let her go.

It was after this that Anjana decided the trio would always take a child along when committing a theft.

Anjana expanded the syndicate’s operations to other Indian cities or suburbs — Thane and Kalyan in Mumbai, Kolhapur, and Nashik — in Maharashtra. Renuka’s husband Kiran drove the getaway car.

Over the next six years up to 40 children were kidnapped.

Some were let go, others were deliberately injured to create a distraction, or murdered when they had lost their usefulness.

At least nine were murdered and among the victims were a nine-month-old and two 18-month-olds.

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: news.com.au, Candace Sutton, April 22, 2017

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