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…

Thailand: Drug kingpin Lao Ta jailed for life, son gets death penalty

Lao Ta Saenlee
The Criminal Court yesterday sentenced former Kuomintang fighter Lao Ta Saenlee, 77, to life imprisonment, and his son to death, for selling about 20 kilogrammes of crystal methamphetamine, or ya ice, to undercover agents in Chiang Mai province last year.

Lao Ta was known formerly as an aide to the late drug kingpin Khun Sa. He had consistently denied being involved in Class-A drug trafficking though admitted he used to trade in opium in the 1970s.

Lao Ta and four other defendants were arrested in a sting operation. Plainclothes police ordered the meth from them at a petrol station owned by Lao Ta in tambon Tha Ton of Chiang Mai's Mae Ai district on Oct 11, 2016.

Public prosecutors arraigned the five people in December 2016, on charges of narcotics trafficking between Sept 20 and Oct 11 last year.

The court was told a plainclothes policewoman who spoke Yunnan Chinese first contacted Lao Ta's drug broker and ordered 1kg of crystal meth. Lao Ta delivered it at his petrol station and his wife Asama, 67, received the agreed 550,000 baht in payment.

Police later placed a larger order, for 20kg, and were quoted a price of 11 million baht. The arrest was made on Oct 11 during the delivery at the petrol station where Lao Ta, his family and associates were present. Police also seized military-grade firearms and ammunition from them.

The arrest put an end to a two-year police hunt for the drug kingpin. Lao Ta's drug network was tough to penetrate because he ran it through front businesses, police said.

Lao Ta's drug ring was among 60 influential narcotics networks in the country, 30 of which have been taken down, according to police.

Because Lao Ta and his wife confessed, the court commuted the death penalty to life imprisonment and reduced his wife's life sentence to 25 years. They were fined 2.5 million baht each.

Rapeekan Saimul, the 58-year-old drug broker who told the court she had sold fertiliser, was sentenced to life imprisonment and fined 5 million baht.

Lao Ta's son Wicharn Barameekuakulsap, 42, who was a kamnan, and Baramee Barameekuakulsap, 39, denied the drug charge and claimed they were only supervising the petrol station. They were sentenced to death. They have been denied bail since their arrest but said they would appeal.

Source: Bangkok Post, December 14, 2017

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