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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…

Oklahoma Governor Fallin signs "Blue Lives Matter" law

Oklahoma Governor Fallin
Okalhoma Governor Mary Fallin
It has been a hard year for law enforcement in Oklahoma.

"In the state of Oklahoma this year alone we've had 4 officers die in the line of duty, 2 of which have been murdered by suspects in the last 90 days. 2 of them have been murdered in less than two months," said Jerad Lindsey, chairman of the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police.

Governor Mary Fallin has now signed into law the Blue Lives Matter in Oklahoma Act of 2017, which now ensures that it is a capital crime to kill a police officer. Not always the case before.

"That's a big part of the punishment is people have to understand what the outcomes are. Right now, it's a bit ambiguous in the law. Sometimes it is a capital offense to kill an officer in the line of duty, sometimes it's not," said Lindsey.

The bill now effectively turns it into a death sentence, offering either the option of the death penalty or life in prison without parole. 

The original author of the bill, panhandle representative Casey Murdock says the bill makes it difficult to just get life in prison.

"I don't know that it'll increase our number of executions. My hope is that it reduces or has a deterrent factor, and reduces the number of officers we have murdered in the line of duty," said Lindsey.

This law doesn't just cover the officers on the street, but also in prisons. Corrections officers are also protected by the Blue Lives Matter Law. 

The law goes into effect in November.

Source: KTUL news, May 9, 2017

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