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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…

Bill to eliminate the death penalty heads to Louisiana Senate

Louisiana's death row
Louisiana's death row
BATON ROUGE, LA (WVUE) - A bill that would eliminate the death penalty in Louisiana will hit the Louisiana State Senate floor Monday afternoon.

The bill cleared a committee last month on a 6-1 vote and Monday the full senate is expected to debate the death penalty at the Capitol.

The bill authored by Baton Rouge Senator Dan Claitor would eliminate the death penalty as of August 1 of this year.

Capital punishment opponents argue the practice is too costly for the state. Louisiana spent more than $90 million in the last 10 years defending capital cases.

A post-conviction attorney told legislators that judges and juries do not always reach the correct conclusion.

Data shows more than 80-percent of death penalty cases were overturned in the last four decades.

But opponents think it could green light judges to overturn death penalty sentences for convicts currently on death row.

Claitor said the bill is not designed to be used retroactively.

State Representative Terry Landry, (D) New Iberia said now is the time to make a change.

“It is a bad act that has outlived its time economically, morally, and I think it is time for us to turn a course,” Landry said.

But death penalty supporters say there are times when it is the correct punishment.

“There are crimes that are so heinous that I submit to you the death penalty may be the appropriate penalty,” said Ricky Babin, Ascension Parish District Attorney.

Landry, a former superintendent of the Louisiana State Police, is sponsoring a similar bill in the house.

Source: WVUE, May 15, 2017

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