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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…

Merkel: No voting in Germany for potential Turkish death penalty referendum

Germany's Angela Merkel with Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Germany's Angela Merkel with Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Merkel has said Turks won't be able to vote on German soil on an issue that it "absolutely rejects." Bringing back the death penalty in Turkey would effectively end any pretense over Turkey's troubled EU bid.

Turkish citizens living in Germany will not be allowed to vote in a potential referendum to bring back the death penalty in Turkey, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has in recent months said he would support reinstating the death penalty if such a measure passed parliament or a referendum. The death penalty is banned in all European Union countries and its return in Turkey would end the country's EU membership process.

"We usually don't answer hypothetical questions, but this question is unfortunately not so hypothetical as it is being discussed in Turkey," Merkel told broadcaster WDR on Tuesday.

"I thought it was important to say that we cannot give permission on German soil to a subject matter that we absolutely reject, such as the death penalty."

Some 1.4 million eligible Turkish voters in Germany were able to cast ballots at embassies and consulates in Germany for a controversial April referendum that dramatically expanded Erdogan's powers.

But after Germany and the Netherlands blocked referendum campaigning by some Turkish ministers, Erdogan accused the two governments of "Nazi"-like behavior and supporting a "No" outcome.

The war of words deepened already tense relations between Berlin and Ankara over the steady deterioration of human rights and democracy in Turkey over the past several years.

Following last year's failed coup attempt, Erdogan has increasingly used emergency powers to conduct a sweeping purge of the military, police, judiciary, civil service and others.

Polarization in Turkey over the referendum - including allegations of widespread voter fraud - has raised concern that conflicts could spill over into the 3-million strong Turkish community in Germany.

Erdogan has mentioned reinstating the death penalty in an apparent attempt to rally nationalism and execute alleged coup plotters tied to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the coup.

Separately, Germany's migration office said 414 Turkish officials with diplomatic passports and their families have applied for asylum. A number of the asylum requests have been approved.

According to several media reports, among those receiving asylum are members of the Turkish military.

Turkey banned the death penalty in peace time in 2002 under reforms aimed at starting EU membership talks. It was completely abolished in 2004, two years after Erdogan's Justice and Development Party came to power.

At the time, the leader of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, was on death row following his 1999 capture.

Europe had urged Turkey not to go forward with the execution, which would have triggered massive and potentially violent Kurdish protests in Europe and Turkey.

Erdogan first broached bringing back the death penalty in 2012 during an uptick in fighting between the PKK and Turkish military.

Source: Deutsche Welle, May 9, 2017

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