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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…

Israel: Kill the Death Penalty Bill

The Knesset
By a bare majority, the Knesset has given preliminary approval to a bill sanctioning the death penalty for terrorists. This bill should be pulled and further legislative stages waived, seeing as how it has now fulfilled its political mission and done its duty by those chanting “death to terrorists,” by the politicians competing with one another over fascist legislation, by those on the “extreme” and “moderate” right, and by anyone whose hand didn’t tremble when he raised it to support this bill. The death penalty is nothing but cold-blooded murder carried out by civilian society, and is therefore morally invalid.

In addition, such a law is superfluous and dangerous. The Shin Bet security service’s objection to it rests on the fear that it would lead to kidnappings of Jews abroad to use them in hostage negotiations, or even to murder them to deter implementation of the law. Even Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who sponsored the bill, once opposed it on the argument that revenge is neither a policy nor morally justified. Thus, he in his own words confirmed the suspicion that the bill is really about revenge and not deterrence. He has since changed his tune, once he concluded the bill would provide him with political capital.

But it’s not only the bill’s effect on security that should halt its legislative path. Israel has a wealth of means to deter, punish and even take revenge against terrorists who carry out their murderous deeds in the name of national or religious ideology. Executing them would only elevate their status and turn them into martyrs and role models.

To buttress these points, there is also the dubious legal argument that Israeli law already permits the death penalty when the judges rule unanimously in its favor. However, anyone who takes this tack is still condoning the death penalty in principle, which is a slippery slope toward legislation easing the way to this punishment, which is the goal of the bill’s sponsors.

The gallows will not win the war on terror, but only increase the damage to Israel’s moral strength. The biggest threat to terror is a diplomatic alternative, which is seen by Israel’s government as a greater threat than terror itself.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

Source: Haaretz, Editorial Board, January 5, 2018


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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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