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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…

Federal appeals court reverses Ohio's execution delay

Ohio's death chamber
Ohio's death chamber
The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday reversed [opinion, PDF] a previous ruling that Ohio's execution protocol was unconstitutional. 

The prior ruling [JURIST report] had put further executions on hiatus.

The question [AP report] was whether one of the three drugs used in the lethal injection process was sufficient to cause the inmates to lose consciousness before they are able to feel the effects of the other two drugs which stop their hearts. 

The eight judges of the majority wrote that the lower court had not used the Supreme Court's standard that "'the method [of execution] presents a risk that is sure or very likely to cause' serious pain and 'needless suffering[.]'" The majority believed that the executions carried out in Ohio did not meet this standard. Six judges dissented and agreed with the lower court that the executions should be postponed until a better method was found. 

Ohio may now move forward with the executions, but the defense attorney says that he is planning to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The death penalty has been a pressing issue across the country. Last week a federal judge ordered [JURIST report] major changes to Arizona death penalty procedures due to prisoner complaints. 

Also this month the US Supreme Court ruled [JURIST report] that psychiatric assistance must be provided for indigent defendants sentenced to the death penalty. 

In May the Delaware House of Representatives passed a bill [JURIST report] that would reinstate the death penalty. 

In March Florida governor signed a new bill [JURIST report] declaring that the death penalty may only be imposed by a judge upon unanimous recommendation from the jury. 

In January the US Supreme Court refused [JURIST report] to consider a challenge to Alabama's death penalty system.

Source: JURIST, Elizabeth Lowman, JUne 30, 2017
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