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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…

Another South Carolina Death Sentence Vacated

On Friday, May 25, 2017, the Office of the South Carolina Attorney General elected not to appeal a decision vacating the death sentence of Justice 360 client William Bell. 

In November 2016, Circuit Judge R. Lawton McIntosh found Mr. Bell intellectually disabled and, therefore, ineligible for the death penalty under the Eighth Amendment. 

The decision of the Attorney General not to appeal ends Mr. Bell’s lengthy struggle against an unconstitutional death sentence.

Mr. Bell was originally sentenced to death in 1989 in Anderson County, South Carolina. 

Justice 360 became involved in Mr. Bell’s case in 2013. 

Justice 360 attorneys Emily Paavola and Lindsey Vann litigated Mr. Bell’s claim that he is intellectually disabled. 

The pair, along with Mark Olive, investigated Mr. Bell’s life and presented evidence of his intellectual disability at a hearing in April 2016. 

After the hearing, Judge McIntosh found Mr. Bell to be intellectually disabled, which makes him constitutionally ineligible to be executed. 

As a result, Mr. Bell’s death sentence was vacated and cannot be reimposed.

Justice 360 commends the Attorney General’s thoughtful consideration of this case and decision not to appeal. 

The decision ensures no further taxpayer money or resources are spent defending an unconstitutional death sentence.

Justice 360 thanks the many other lawyers, investigators, and paralegals who dedicated their time and resources towards Mr. Bell’s case all of which lead to this just conclusion.

Source: Justice 360, Mandy Medlock, June 7, 2017

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