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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…

How some Irish people escaped the death penalty

Executioner Albert Pierrepoint (Clive Revill) puts a bag over the head of Derek Bentley (Christopher Eccleston), in a scene from ‘Let Him Have It’, based on the real life case of Bentley, who was controversially hanged for murder in 1953.
Justice, Mercy and Caprice review: An engaging look at Ireland’s journey towards the abolition of death penalty

To many, the death penalty may seem like an anachronistic punishment, a relic of a past age that in the process of civilisation has been confined to the history books. Some may therefore be surprised to learn that Ireland’s last link with the death penalty was only severed in 2015, when the last two people to be sentenced to capital punishment for the murder of a member of An Garda Síochána, were released from prison, having served 30 years following the commutation of their death sentences.

Up until the early 1960s the death penalty was a mandatory sentence for murder, and until 1990 it remained as the ultimate penalty for so-called “capital offences”, which included the murder of on-duty members of the Garda or the Prison Service, or the politically motivated murder of foreign dignitaries on Irish soil.

However, the practice of the State enacting death as a means of punishment effectively ceased after 1954 when Michael Manning, the last person to be executed, was hanged in the yard of Mountjoy prison. In 2001, the public voted in a referendum to remove all references to the death penalty from the Constitution. It did so by a majority of 62 per cent, although if the turnout was a reflection (35 per cent), it was not an issue on which the public was particularly exercised.

In this book, Ian O’Donnell charts Ireland’s journey towards the gradual abolition of the death penalty. The central focus is on the practice of clemency, that is, where a court imposed a death penalty but the State intervened to prevent its enactment. From 1923 to 1990, in the period following the end of the Civil War to the removal of the death penalty from the statute books, 98 men and women were sentenced to death, whose convictions were upheld on appeal, but in only 35 of these cases the ultimate penalty was enacted. In other words, almost two-thirds of those whom the courts had sentenced to death had their sentence commuted. Why was this the case, and what does it reveal about attitudes to crime and justice, and society and culture?

➤ Click here to read the full article

Source: The Irish Times, Nicola Carr, January 6, 2018. Nicola Carr is associate professor in criminology at University of Nottingham.

➤ Book Title: Justice, Mercy and Caprice: Clemency and the Death Penalty in Ireland | ISBN-13: 9780198798477 | Author: Ian O’Donnell | Publisher: Oxford University Press | Guideline Price: £70.00


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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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