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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…

13 percent of Texas death row inmates wait 25 years or more for execution

Raymond Riles
Raymond Riles, on Texas death row since February 1976
For some Texas death row inmates, being condemned can feel like a life sentence.

Roughly 13 percent (30 of 238) of the inmates awaiting execution in the Lone Star State have been on death row for 25 years or more.

That length of stay is nearly a decade above the national average time awaiting execution of 15 years and nine months.

The longest resident of death row in Texas, Raymond Riles, has been sitting in solitary confinement (except for doctor visits and court appearances) since February 1976.

Since the reinstatement of the death penalty in 1976, 41 inmates on death row have died either of natural causes or suicide while awaiting execution.

This is in a state that has executed 23 people in the last three years and isn't shy about carrying out death sentences.

But, the state is also suing the federal government to get a hold of a shipment of the lethal injection drug sodium thiopental.

While that is tied up in court, there's little the state can do if it runs out of the current supply of the sedative, prolonging the time on death row for the inmates and the wait for the victim's families.


Source: Houston Chronicle, Brett Barrouquere, May 3, 2017

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