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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…

Jakarta governor Ahok withdraws appeal against blasphemy jail sentence

The outgoing governor of Jakarta has shocked the capital by withdrawing an appeal against his two-year jail sentence for blasphemy against Islam within minutes of it being filed.

Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama's own lawyer confessed he was flummoxed by his client's decision.

"As for the reason for the withdrawal we don't know yet," lawyer Wayan Sudirta told Fairfax Media.

Ahok, a popular reformist governor, was jailed for two years after he made comments during his election campaign that a Jakarta court found were blasphemous.

Ahok had told fishermen they were being deceived by his political foes who used a verse in the Koran to argue Muslims should not have a non-Muslim leader.

He later repeatedly apologised but the remarks also cost him victory in the gubernatorial election in April, despite high approval ratings for his performance while governor.

The two-year jail sentence was far harsher than that requested by the prosecutors, who asked for a suspended jail sentence for the lesser charge of inciting hatred.

The outcome of the trial was seen as a triumph for creeping conservative Islamism in Indonesia and candle-lit vigils were held across the archipelago lamenting Ahok's downfall.

Remarkably the prosecution itself appealed, complaining the panel of five judges had ignored their request he be found guilty of the lesser charge of inciting hatred.

Mr Sudirta said Ahok's principle in life was to place the interest of the nation ahead of his own.

"That's his way of life, he wants to serve the people, believe in the Bible, believe in God's plan," Mr Sudirta said.

"If those were some of the reasons behind the withdrawal ... I don't know yet."

He said Ahok defended Pancasila, the state ideology that stresses belief not in one religion but in one God, and the national motto of unity in diversity.

A press conference will be held on Tuesday to explain Ahok's decision.

Ahok has reportedly been reading the Bible and writing to stave off the loneliness of a life behind bars.

"Who knows, he may produce quality writing in prison, just like (Indonesia's first president) Sukarno," his sister Fify Lety Indra, a lawyer who represented Ahok in court, told The Jakarta Post.

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Source: Brisbane Times, Jewel Topsfield, May 23, 2017

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