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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…

Alabama death row inmate Tommy Arthur can't get execution records: Judge

Tommy Arthur
Tommy Arthur
The Alabama Department of Corrections doesn't have to provide documents to lawyers for Alabama death row inmate Tommy Arthur related to the executions of 2 other inmates last year, a judge has ruled.

Arthur's attorneys in March filed a request for a writ of mandamus asking a judge order the Alabama Department of Corrections to provide them records related to the executions of Christopher Eugene Brooks on Jan. 21, 2016 and Ronald Bert Smith on Dec. 8. The request was made under the Alabama Open Records Act.

The ADOC, according to the motion, had declined their request for execution logs that record the administration of drugs, the performance of a consciousness assessments, the times of death, and all other events relating to the executions. The attorneys also requested autopsy reports that record the cause of death, any evidence of irregularities or potential issues during the executions, and toxicology screens.

Arthur's attorneys have contended that Brooks and Smith may have suffered because of Alabama's new lethal injection drug combination. Smith heaved and gasped for breath for 13 minutes during his execution and two consciousness tests were performed. The ADOC has said the executions went according to their protocol.

In a brief order issued Monday afternoon ... Montgomery Circuit Judge J.R. Gaines granted the ADOC's motion to dismiss the request by Arthur's attorneys "because certified copies of the autopsy reports are available upon request from Alabama Department of Forensic Science and any release of the execution logs would be detrimental to the best interests of the public."

Akash Toprani, pro bono counsel for Arthur, issued a statement Tuesday.

"The people of Alabama have a right to know what their government is doing in their name, especially when it involves taking a life. The alarming reports arising from the recent execution of Ronald Bert Smith, Jr., makes transparency in the State's administration of the death penalty a matter of critical public importance, and we are deeply disappointed by today's ruling," Toprani stated. "If the State is so confident that its lethal injection protocol is constitutional, it would not obstruct public access to these records."

Arthur, 75,is set to be executed May 25 at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. It is the 8th time since 2001 that the state has set an execution for Arthur for his conviction in the 1982 shooting death of Troy Wicker.

Wicker's wife was also convicted of hiring Arthur, with insurance money, to kill her husband.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied Arthur's appeals earlier this year.

Source: al.com, May 17, 2017

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