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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…

India's HC commutes death penalty of dacoit Sonu Sardar to life term

New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Wednesday commuted to life term the death sentence awarded to a dacoit Sonu Sardar, guilty of murder of five persons, including two children, in Chhat

New Delhi, June 29 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Wednesday commuted to life term the death sentence awarded to a dacoit Sonu Sardar, guilty of murder of five persons, including two children, in Chhattisgarh in 2004.

A division bench of Justice G.S. Sistani and Justice Vinod Goel commuted the capital punishment to life term, saying: “The mercy petition was processed in an extremely cavalier and casual fashion by the state government at all stages, right up to placing the note for the Governor.”

Sardar, along with his brother and accomplices, had killed five persons of a family, including a woman and two children, during a dacoity bid in Chhattisgarh’s Cher village on November 26, 2004.

The trial court had awarded him death sentence and the Chhattisgarh High Court had upheld it. The Supreme Court in February 2012 had concurred with the findings of two courts below and affirmed the punishment.

His mercy petition was also dismissed by both state government and President of India in May 2014. 

In February 2015, the Supreme Court had also rejected his review plea.

Sardar later moved the high court seeking direction that his death penalty be commuted to life imprisonment on account of delay in deciding his mercy plea as well as for allegedly keeping him in “solitary confinement illegally”.

Reducing the sentence, the high court said: “The relevant considerations of the mitigating circumstances, recommendation of the Jail Superintendent and the young age of the petitioner were not placed before the Governor, depriving him of the opportunity to exercise his power in a fair and just manner.”

The court noted that there were “numerous discrepancies and falsities” in the affidavits filed by the Chhattisgarh government.

Making it clear that “life imprisonment means (till the) end of one’s life”, it said: “Further, the incarceration of the petitioner in solitary confinement without any judicial order has run awry of the fundamental rights, and this court, being the sentinel of the Constitution, is bound to intervene and give relief to the petitioner.”

Source: India.com, June 29, 2017

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