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…

Lebanon Judge Wants Death Penalty for 14-Year-Old Killer

Playing video games
Beirut’s First Investigative Judge Ghassan Oueidat Tuesday called for the death penalty in the case of a 14-year-old boy who killed three people, including his father, and attempted to murder four others.

Oueidat justified the decision on the basis that the scale of the crime was sufficient to call for the death penalty under Article 549 of the Lebanese Penal Code, a judicial source said.

Psychiatrist Dr. Mohammad al-Hashash said in a report that there was no evidence that the child, Ali Younes, had mental health issues that would make him ineligible for trial.

In the early hours of Oct. 17, the decision stated, the Internal Security Forces Beirut Operations Chamber contacted the Zoqaq al-Blat station about reports of gunfire in the Baghdadi alleyway close to the area’s Hosseiniyeh.

Younes was later arrested for shooting multiple people with a 12-gauge pump-action shotgun.

“Lebanese law does not allow for minors to be sentenced to death at all, no matter what the scale of the crime they committed, the most they can be sentenced to is ... several years in prison.” - Coordinator of child protection NGO Himaya’s legal unit.

Younes’ victims were identified as his father, Mohammad Hussein Younes, Mohammad Aadan al-Marabi and Mansour Ahmad Abdel-Salam. Those injured were identified as brothers Bassam, Mohammad and Ali Chehab and Salwa Hamad Mansur – the wife of the late Mansur Ahmad.

The coordinator of child protection NGO Himaya’s legal unit, Basima Rummani, said that children cannot be sentenced to death in Lebanon.

“Lebanese law does not allow for minors to be sentenced to death at all, no matter what the scale of the crime they committed, the most they can be sentenced to is ... several years in prison,” she said. “Will he be sentenced to death? No way. What kind of judge would call for the death penalty, even if it’s an indictment, it’s laughable,” she added.

The judicial source said that the investigative judge, in conforming to the Lebanese Penal Code, “could not judge any other way,” due to the severity of the crimes committed.

But, he said, as Younes is a minor, the judge will transfer the case to a juvenile court, which would take into consideration that the judge had called for the “maximum punishment,” but could not sentence Younes to death.

There is no investigative judge for juveniles, the source added, but legal proceedings require any case to pass through this stage.

During investigations with a juvenile commissioner, Younes reportedly said he left his family home with the shotgun on the morning of the incident, running into his father in the stairwell. Younes said he shot his father in the neck accidentally. 

He went on to shoot at anyone he encountered. Younes explained this by saying that at one point he had heard a gun being loaded and another time by saying he thought a gun had been drawn on him.

He added he had been trying to escape the house after being beaten and abused by his father. Younes added his father had once burned him with a heated skewer, and while the beatings had stopped roughly two years ago, his father had again hit him with the skewer around two months earlier.

Younes claimed he left the house with the weapon and ammunition because he knew that his father would run after him and “get him.”

Younes’ mother, Ilham al-Aqla, said she had been beaten by her husband the night before the crime, and that this had become normal for both her and her children.

She also said her son had prevented anyone from entering his room for around eight months before the crime and that he would play video games on his phone and always keep earphones in his ears. She added that there had been no problem between Younes and his father the night before the shooting.

Younes’ brother told investigators Younes would often be stressed and would break things when he became angry, sometimes screaming at him and his father.

Four months before the incident, the brother said, Younes had cleaned the murder weapon and pointed it toward the neighboring building, saying, “If only I could kill someone.”

Mansour, the wife of one of the victims, said that her husband, a doorman at the Fares al-Jadidieh building, had gone out as usual on the morning of Oct. 17 to open the garage. A minute later, she said she heard a loud sound and went out to find her husband on the ground soaked in blood.

She called an ambulance and went to the first floor of the building, encountering Younes on the stairs. Younes then shot her in the chest.

Victim Ali Chehab said that he was on the sixth floor of the Fares al-Jadidieh building in the alley with his two brothers and family when he heard gunshots and went onto the apartment’s balcony.

Younes, who was on the third or fourth floor of the opposite building, then shot at them, hitting Chehab in his eye and shoulder. When his brothers came to his aid, Younes shot at them too. Mohammad Chehab said that he was wounded in the neck, back and right hand, and that a bullet was still stuck in his intestines.

This article has been adapted from its original source, The Daily Star.

Source: albawaba, December 13, 2017

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