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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…

U.S. Army moves closer to first execution in 50 years

Ronald Gray
Ronald Gray
An Army soldier convicted almost 30 years ago of serial murder and rape has moved one step closer to the death chamber.

Private Ronald Gray lost his latest appeal last week, the Fayetteville Observer reported. Gray had asked the Army Court of Criminal Appeals to vacate his death sentence, claiming he was incompetent to stand trial, had improper representation, and that the death penalty is racially biased.

According to the Army, Gray now has 30 days to file for reconsideration by the court or 20 days to file with the higher Court of Appeals for the Army Forces. If those appeals fail, Gray could become the first person executed by the U.S. military since 1961, when Army Pvt. John Bennett was hanged for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year old Austrian girl.

In 1988, a military court found Gray guilty of two murders and five separate rapes that took place while he was stationed at the North Carolina military base. He pleaded guilty in civilian court to two more murders and five separate rapes.

Gray is housed at the U.S. Army Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He is the longest-serving inmate on military death row.

Including Gray, there are five military personnel on death row: Dwight Loving, convicted in 1989 on two counts of premeditated murder in Texas; Hasan Akbar, an Army soldier convicted in 2005 of using a hand grenade to kill two military members and wound 14 others in Kuwait; Andrew Witt, a former Air Force senior airman from Robins Air Force Base, Georgia who was convicted in 2005 of two counts of premeditated murder and one count of attempted premeditated murder; Timothy Hennis, who was convicted in 2010 for the murder of three people in North Carolina; and Nidal Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas in 2009.

All military executions must be approved by the president.

According to the Observer, Gray's execution would likely take place at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terra Haute, Indiana, the same facility where terrorist Timothy McVeigh was put to death in 2001 for the 1995 Oklahoma City federal building bombing.

Source: AL.com, Leada Gore, May 26, 2017

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