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…

North Carolina prosecutors want the death penalty for prison inmates accused of killing officers

North Carolina's death row
The 4 prisoners accused of carrying out the deadliest prison escape attempt in North Carolina history could now face the death penalty.

Prosecutors in Pasquotank County announced Wednesday they will ask for the men to be executed, according to reports from TV stations WAVY and WTKR.

Inmates Wisezah Buckman, Mikel Brady, Seth Frazier and Jonathan Monk have been charged with 1st degree murder as well as other crimes related to their failed escape attempt in October.

The men were working in a sewing plant at Pasquotank Correctional Institute when they attacked the only guard on duty, Justin Smith, as well as the plant manager, Veronica Darden, officials have said.

Smith and Darden died that day, and 2 other corrections officers, Wendy Shannon and Geoffrey Howe, died later from injuries they sustained during the chaos.

Funeral services for Veronica Darden, 1 of 4 corrections employees killed in a failed prison escape, were Oct. 21, 2017. Hundreds of law enforcement officials from across North Carolina and the region attended.

The four inmates stand accused of attacking officers with tools like hammers and scissors, setting a fire at the prison as a distraction, and finally fighting hand-to-hand with guards who caught up with them as they tried to get out.

One of the accused, Buckman, wrote a letter to the Charlotte Observer in which he admitted to trying to escape but nothing more. He said one of the other inmates told him about their plan at the last minute and he joined in because "all I want to do is see my children and tell them I love them." Buckman called the officers "innocent people."

The local district attorney said the state wants the 4 men executed because they attacked law enforcement officers, WAVY reported.

Corrections officers in North Carolina don't have to be law enforcement officers - a fact that has raised the ire of the State Employees Association of North Carolina. The lobbying group wants prison workers to get that classification so they can receive better benefits. SEANC had been pushing for the change before the Pasquotank attacks but has ramped up its pressure on lawmakers since then.

It's unclear what might befall the inmates if they are convicted and sentenced to death.

While the death penalty does still technically exist in North Carolina, the state has not executed anyone since 2006. Since then, at least 7 men who had been convicted of murder have had their convictions thrown out and were freed from prison. 5 of them had been sentenced to death.

There are still 143 people on death row, including 140 men and 3 women.

Source: charlotteobserver.com, December 7, 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