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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…

Alabama execution back on for Thursday after U.S. Supreme Court ruling

Robert Melson
Robert Melson
The execution of Robert Bryant Melson is back on for Thursday after the U.S. Supreme Court tonight lifted a stay that had been granted last week by an appeals court.

The stay of the execution was lifted in an order issued by U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday.

Three of the nine Supreme Court associate justices - Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor - said they did not want to vacate the stay of execution, according to the brief order.

Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Monday had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule the appeals court and reinstate Thursday's planned execution of Melson, the man convicted in the 1994 shooting deaths of three fast food employees at a Popeye's in Etowah County.

The execution is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore.

The 11th Circuit on Friday had granted a stay of Melson's execution. Melson is challenging his execution on grounds that the three-drug cocktail Alabama uses for lethal injections "has failed to work properly."

The 11th Circuit issued the stay so it can rule on Melson's challenge, which is also being appealed by four other death row inmates.

Melson and the other inmates argue that the first drug administered in the cocktail, the sedative midazolam, doesn't work well enough prevent the inmates from experiencing the pain caused by the other two drugs that stop breathing and the heart.

The Alabama Attorney General on Monday, however, filed a motion to the U.S. Supreme Court that argues in part that the U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled that midazolam can be used in drug protocols.

Also, the Attorney General argues, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the stay requests of four Arkansas inmates who were executed using the same drug protocol as Alabama. And Alabama has already carried out three executions using the protocol, including the May 25 execution of Tommy Arthur in which the 11th Circuit denied a stay.

The other two Alabama inmates who were executed - Ronald Smith and Christopher Brooks - also were co-plaintiffs in the case with Melson "and their stay requests were denied by the Eleventh Circuit because their nearly identical claims were also time-bared," the Attorney General also argued.

Source: AL.com, Ken Faulk, June 6, 2017

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