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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…

China sentences ten to death in front of cheering crowd of thousands

Residents in Guangdong invited to see group sentenced before they are taken away for summary execution in wake of drugs crackdown
A court in China sentenced 10 people to death in front of thousands of onlookers, including schoolchildren, before they were then taken away to be immediately executed.

The group were brought before a crowd at a sports stadium in the city of Lufeng, southern Guangdong, on Saturday (16 December), just days after officials had advertised the public sentencing to local residents on social media.

A video posted online shows the convicts standing in the arena with their arms behind their backs and flanked by police officers.

An announcer can be heard addressing the stadium over loudspeakers as the convicts are paraded to the crowd, some of whom were reported to have been wearing school uniform.

After being sentenced to death, the group are then led away on the back of police pickup trucks that drive off with sirens blaring.

Some 12 people were brought to the stadium for the public sentencing, 10 of whom were given the death penalty.

Seven were found guilty of drug crimes, while others faced murder and robbery charges, local media reported.

It comes after state media reported similar scenes just five months earlier when eight people were publicly sentenced to death in Lufeng, which has become the focus of anti-drug trafficking police operations.

In 2014, a village near Lufeng was raided by anti-drugs police and border guards, who seized three tonnes of crystal meth. Nearly 200 people were detained at the time.

While public sentencing is rare in China, the spectacles are intended to remind the public of the government's hard stance on illegal drug production, sale and trafficking.

But leading human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the practice as "tragic and barbaric".

Public mass trials in sports stadiums: Justice in China"Despite China continuously executing hundreds if not thousands of people per year for drug-related offences, China is actually experiencing a growth in drug manufacturing and trafficking – which obviously shows the limitations of the 'kill the monkey to scare the chickens approach'," Amnesty researcher William Nee said earlier this year.

"China should immediately end the use of the death penalty for offenses that do not meet the threshold of 'intentional killing' in international law, and devise other ways to tackle the drug problem that don't perpetuate a cycle of violence."

China executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined, according to human rights groups.

Beijing does not release statistics on its use of the death penalty, which are considered a state secret, but last year the country is thought to have executed 2,000 people, according to estimates compile by the US-based NGO Dui Hua Foundation.

The country maintains the death penalty for both violent and non-violence offences, such as drug trafficking and economic crimes.

The world's second most prolific executioner is Iran, according to Amnesty International. The country's hard-line Islamic regime is thought to have put to death at least 567 people last year.

Source: International Business Times, December 18, 2017


Thousands in China watch as 10 people sentenced to death in sport stadium



File photo: Sentenced to death and immediately taken off to a nearby execution ground.
A court in China has sentenced 10 people to death, mostly for drug-related crimes, in front of thousands of onlookers before taking them away for execution.

The 10 people were executed immediately after the sentencing in Lufeng in southern Guangdong province, just 160km (100 miles) from Hong Kong, according to state-run media.

Seven of the 10 executed were convicted of drug-related crimes, while others were found guilty of murder and robbery.

Four days before the event, local residents were invited to attend the sentencing in an official notice circulated on social media. The accused were brought to the stadium on the back of police trucks with their sirens blaring, each person flanked by four officers wearing sunglasses.

They were brought one by one to a small platform set up on what is usually a running track to have their sentences read, according to video of the trial. Thousands watched the spectacle, with some reports saying students in their school uniforms attended.

People stood on their seats while others crowded onto the centre of the field, some with their mobile phones raised to record the event, others chatting or smoking.

China executes more people every year than the rest of the world combined, although the exact figure is not published and considered a state secret. Last year the country carried out about 2,000 death sentences, according to estimates by the Dui Hua Foundation, a human rights NGO based in the United States. China maintains the death penalty for a host of non-violent offences, such as drug trafficking and economic crimes.

However, public trials in China are rare. The country’s justice system notoriously favours prosecutors and Chinese courts have a 99.9% conviction rate. The trend to reintroduce open-air sentencing trials is reminiscent of the early days of the People’s Republic, when capitalists and landowners were publicly denounced.

The most recent public sentencing and subsequent executions were not a first for Lufeng. Eight people were sentenced to death for drug crimes and summarily executed five months ago in a similar public trial, according to state media.

The town was the site of a large drug bust in 2014, when 3,000 police descended on Lufeng and arrested 182 people. Police confiscated three tonnes of crystal meth, and authorities at the time said the area was responsible for producing a third of China’s meth.

Although open-air sentencing hearings are rare in China, they have been revived in recent years in some areas, most notably for cases of alleged terrorism in the country’s far western region of Xinjiang.

A crowd of 7,000 watched as 55 suspects were sentenced in 2014, where at least one person was sentenced to death.

Source: The Guardian, December 18, 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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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning