In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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…

Queensland considered as film set of new movie on faith journey of executed Bali Nine trafficker Andrew Chan

Andrew Chan (left) with Myuran Sukumaran
Andrew Chan (left) with Myuran Sukumaran
AN Australian producer is planning to use Queensland as a location to shoot a movie about the Bali Nine, focusing on the hidden faith journey of one of the drug traffickers who was executed.

“Our story is based around the remarkable transformation of Andrew Chan and the flow-on effect of his faith within the prison and to those who visited,” independent film producer Ben Field, who has previously worked as a director on Home and Away, said.

Now in pre-production and set to begin shooting – including in far north Queensland – early next year, Finding Mercy aims to show Chan’s personal transformation and rehabilitation during his 10-year incarceration in a Bali prison up until his execution in 2015.

Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were in their early twenties as they looked for an “easy payday” by embarking on the ill-fated plan, with seven others, to smuggle eight kilograms of heroin from Bali to Australia.

They were caught, found guilty and sentenced to death.

The other Bali Nine members remain in jail on life sentences, but there are renewed efforts by leading Australian Catholic lawyer Colin McDonald QC to return them to Australia.

“The journey of the Bali Nine was widely publicised in international papers, but our aim with this film is to capture the part of the story that hasn’t been told,” Mr Field said.

“This film is a story about mercy and second chances. ‘Can people change?’ ‘And, if so, will we allow them the opportunity to do so?’”

Mr Field said Chan grew up in a Chinese migrant family and was influenced by a Salvation Army family, the Sopers, who lived in his neighbourhood.

“He grew up with faith around him,” he said.

“He obviously chose to live life his own way and ended up where he did. But he always had an understanding of God, but wasn’t living for Him.

“When he hit rock bottom in the prison he tells in an unreleased video, which we have, of a moment of crying out to God for help.”

Mr Field said the next day Luke Soper and his brother, who Chan had grown up with, arrived in prison and gave him a Bible.

“It was a slow and sometimes frustrating journey for him coming to read and understand,” Mr Field said.

“In his testimony he talks about always praying to God for freedom, and in his mind freedom was being released, starting a family, starting afresh.

“He believes God spoke to him in the prison and said ‘I have set you free’ and it was at that moment that he felt true freedom within, the power of Jesus.”

Chan’s actions in prison were remarkable.

He started to rebuild church life within the prison, helped recovering drug addicts, and inmates with AIDS deprived of medicines and relying on outside help.

“When we are doing our production meetings I say that, prior to being arrested, Andrew really was the godfather, who, in prison became the good father to many people in need,” Mr Field said.

“So this is the remarkable journey of Andrew Chan understanding faith and who God was in his life and then understanding that he had true freedom and a purpose to carry out inside, even though he was facing the death penalty.”

Mr Field said the story of Chan and Sukumaran had already touched many hearts.

“In the months leading up to their execution, politicians, celebrities and business tycoons from Australia and around the globe appealed for clemency,” he said.

“Then, in the final 72 hours before the shots were fired, thousands joined candlelight vigils across Australia.

“In their final hours, the pair hugged and forgave their Indonesian jailers, turning a brutal execution into a sacred and holy moment.”

Finding Mercy is expected to use some shooting locations in far north Queensland similar to tropical settings in Indonesia where the seven of the Bali Nine remain in prison.

The film has an $8 million budget and is aimed at international cinema release.

Source: Catholic Leader, Mark Bowling, June 20, 2017

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