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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…

Indonesian death penalty laws to be softened to allow reformed prisoners to avoid execution

Andrew Chan, left, and Myuran Sukumaran
Indonesian politicians have agreed to soften the nation's harsh death penalty laws.

The proposed new laws would impose a 10-year stay on executions, after which the death penalty could be commuted to a prison term.

"The legislation in the draft penal code is a small step towards abolition," said death penalty critic Ricky Gunawan, the director of Indonesia's Community Legal Aid Institute.

"It's a compromise between groups who are for and against the death penalty."

The changes would give authorities much greater leeway to avoid executing reformed prisoners, like Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran who were shot by firing squad in 2015.

Both men were model prisoners who were praised for helping their fellow inmates.

They were among 18 convicted drug smugglers executed in 2015 and 2016.

"There are so many death row prisoners who show transformation," Mr Gunawan said.

"The issue at stake is how to ensure prisoners like Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran could be seen by the Government as eligible to have their sentence commuted."


Change makes commutation decision 'highly political'


The 10-year stay on executions would be followed by an automatic review of the penalty by Indonesia's law and human rights minister.

Eighteen people have been executed under the rule of President Joko Widodo. Most were foreigners and all were convicted of drug smuggling.

The minister could recommend a death sentence be commuted to life in prison or a 20-year term.

Mr Gunawan said he would like to see the review done by an independent committee rather than a politician.

"The decision rests with the minister for law and human rights — therefore it's highly political," he said.

"There is a need for an independent body to advise the President."

Legislators have agreed on the proposed law changes, but they are part of sweeping review of the nation's criminal code that will not be enacted for several years.

Eighteen people have been executed under the rule of President Joko Widodo. Most were foreigners and all were convicted of drug smuggling.

The executions caused significant damage to Indonesia's relationship with Australia, among other countries.

Source: abc.net.au, Adam Harvey, January 10, 2018


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but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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