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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…

5 worrying things we’ve learned from new Saudi execution numbers

Public beheading in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Saudi Arabia has executed 137 people this year – 11 in just the last two weeks. Our team has analysed the numbers and uncovered some worrying trends.

Here’s what we’ve learned:

1. This could be another record-breaking year for executions

At the current rate, Saudi Arabia is on course to exceed the record totals of the last two years, when 158 and then 154 people were executed. This means that Saudi Arabia is on track to execute 2030 people by the year 2030.


2. The new Crown Prince is no social reformer

Mohammed Bin Salman has been vocal about modernising Saudi Arabia but has instead overseen a dramatic increase in executions. He is the key architect behind the reforms of Vision 2030, but 96 executions have been carried out since he came to power just six months ago. His failure to address Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record and the imminent execution of 14 protesters has left questions about his commitment to real reform.

3. The Saudi authorities seem to have been emboldened after President Trump’s visit

Execution rates have increased dramatically since President Trump visited Saudi Arabia and failed to raise human rights concerns. Seemingly emboldened by Trump’s support, 73% of the year’s executions have take place since his visit.


4. Political protesters are being executed again

Those executed since Mohammed Bin Salman became Crown Prince include at least one political protester, who was executed in July. This marked the first protest-related execution since January 2016, when a mass execution provoked an international outcry. A return to protest-related executions has sparked fresh fears for the 14 young people on death row for ‘protest-related offences’.


5. Executions are becoming more coordinated

The Saudi authorities have carried out mass executions this year, with several executions happening regularly on the same day in different provinces on a regular basis. This is a new trend – and we think it suggests the execution system is becoming more sophisticated and coordinated under Mohammed Bin Salman.

Source: Reprieve, December 19, 2017


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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