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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…

Sierra Leone: Govt. rejects CRC recommendation to abolish death penalty

Gallows
In the newly released White Paper on the Constitutional Review Committee (CRC) Report, the government indicated that it will retain the death penalty in Section 16 (1) of the 1991 Constitution.

The CRC report was presented to the President on 24th January 2017, with several recommendations of which was a call for the abolition of the death penalty, under the theme Protection of Right to Life.

The Section reads ... "No person shall be deprived of his life intentionally except in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Sierra Leone, of which he has been convicted."

During consultations with Parliamentarians, they were in favour of abolishing the death penalty completely. The CRC also took account of numerous position papers including that of the HRCSL that had been received, and the responses from nationwide consultations where there was a clear majority call for the abolition of the death penalty.

The Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone (HRCSL) 2014 report recommended that the government and the CRC should implement the TRC and the Universal periodic Review recommendations for the abolition of the death penalty.

They also urged government through the office of the Attorney general to sign the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on the abolition of the death penalty.

In May 2014, Minister of Justice, Franklyn Bai Kargbo told the United Nations that Sierra Leone intended to abolish capital punishment in law and that the death sentences of the country's last death row prisoners had been commuted to life imprisonment.

In the HRCSL 2016 report, they reported that they were concerned about statement made on radio by the Internal Affairs Minister Palo Conteh, on 21st October that the gallows would be tested and prepared in readiness for use. A mock execution was subsequently done at the Freetown Male Correctional Centre on 25th October, which was viewed on television.

The death penalty in Sierra Leone indicates that murder, treason, and aggravated robbery are death-eligible. Hanging and shooting is the method provided by law for any execution.

The Government's response was that the CRC plenary did not have a quorum of members when they were voting on the recommendation around abolishing the death penalty. "Further, the recommendation is not representative of the views of the members of the CRC who voted 23 to 18 in favour of retaining the death penalty ..."

As a result, the government says it will maintain the death penalty as a deterrent to heinous crimes against humanity.

Despite the government stance to maintain the death penalty, the last known execution was carried out by firing squad in October 1998, where they publicly executed 24 soldiers for taking part in a military coup.

In 2010, there were 13 prisoners on death row. Recent presidential pardons contributed to emptying death row, according to Amnesty International, there were no prisoners on death row by the end of 2012.

A man was sentenced to death in 2013 (the 1st death sentence since 2011) and was the only person under sentence of death until recently.

Source: awoko.com, December 5, 2017


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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning