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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…

Iran: The Judiciary Must Provide Legal Aid To All Death Row Prisoners For Drug Offences

Iranian prison
According to Iranian media, the head of the country's Judiciary system has ordered a Supreme Court's Uniform Procedure Decision come into effect. The decision halts the execution of drug defendants, to review their cases. However, the Supreme Court's verdict was issued in November 2017.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) has a few points for clarification. The new amendment to Iranian drug law, which was enforced on November 14, can reduce the number of defendants on death row. According to official statistics, the number exceeds 5300. However, there are still some dubious points about the reports that need an explanation.

Most importantly, it is not clear whether the defendants or the Section for Implementation of Sentence should file an appeal.

A January 9 report notes that "The judges responsible for implementation of verdicts are obligated to immediately delay executions and pursue all cases that are subject to Clause (b), Article 10, of the Islamic Penal Code enacted in 2013, and give the priority to the death-row prisoners. If the new Article applies to them and their sentence can be then reduced, the judges should send the case along with a brief explanation to the branch of the Revolutionary Court that issued their final verdict, or a substitute branch. If the defendant personally asks for a reduction of punishment, the judges responsible for implementing verdicts are obliged to send their appeal to the court along with their case." Supreme Court General Council issued a Uniform Procedure Decision and announced that according to the new drug law, if a death-row prisoner who is charged with drug-related offences," another report published on Sunday, January 7, emphasises, "files an appeal, his sentence will be halted, and his case will be sent to a parallel court.

Does this mean that the cases of the death-row drug offenders will be reconsidered, only in the situation that defendant himself appeals?

"The new law can halt the execution of thousands of prisoners which is the most important step towards the limitation of the death penalty worldwide," says Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, spokesperson of Iran Human Rights (IHR).

Nevertheless, Amiry-Moghaddam indicates: "if the defendant himself is responsible for appealing, then the law will be proved ineffective. Most death-row drug offenders come from the lower end of Iranian society's socio-economic continuum who do not have enough knowledge about their legal rights and are not aware of the possibility of pursuing their case to appeal.

If they Judiciary remarkably wishes to reduce the number of executions, it has to provide all death-row prisoners with legal aids."

Source: Iran Human Rights, January 12, 2018


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

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