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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: Sefardi Chief Rabbi Opposes Calls for Death Penalty

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
The Sefardi Chief Rabbi said instituting the death penalty offered "no gain" for the Israeli public, only offering potential danger for world Jewry.

Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, the Sefardi Chief Rabbi of Israel, spoke out against the proposed death-penalty legislation during a weekly lecture Saturday night, Channel 2 reported early Sunday morning. 

"There is no gain," the rabbi said during the question-and-answer section of a weekly lecture. "We are not the Sanhedrin [an assembly forming a Jewish court during biblical times]. If there was a situation of a Jewish terrorist, killing them would be against Halakha. This has nothing to do with the right and the left, it has to do with judgment."

The Knesset approved a bill that would facilitate a military court's ability to sentence terrorists to death by a 52-49 vote last week. The bill, sponsored by Yisrael Beytenu and backed by Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, enjoys the backing of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the death penalty "justice in extreme situations."

He cited an explanation of security officials that the death penalty does not offer much "benefit," reiterating his opposition had nothing to do with political inclinations, and feared the potential repercussions of instituting the death penalty. 

"Let's say there was a terrorist... who was sentenced to death," he posited. "Until the verdict was carried out, there would be a great uproar in the world and Jews across the world would be in danger so there is no benefit."

Yosef, the son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, explained, "only the Sanhedrin can issue a death sentencing."

The European Union was quick to denounce the move, saying it is "opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances" on Thursday.

The bill has proved to be a rift between Liberman's Yisrael Beytenu and United Torah Judaism, as UTJ refused to support the death-penalty bill without it being approved by rabbinical authorities while Yisrael Beytenu refuses to support a UTJ bill that seeks to curb mini-markets operations on Shabbat. 

Israel has twice carried out executions, first in 1948 when Meir Tobianski was subjected to a drumhead court martial and found guilty of espionage, a false claim for which he was posthumously exonerated. The second, more infamous, occurrence came after the Knesset voted by-and-large to abolish the death penalty when Adolf Eichmann was hanged for Nazi war crimes. 

Yisrael Beytenu introduced similar legislation in 2015 that was overwhelmingly rejected 94-6 at the time. All six votes in favor came from the six Yisrael Beytenu members of Knesset at the time.

"You want to sentence someone to death? Only by the hands of heaven. We are not a Sanhedrin [court]," Yosef concluded.

Source: Jerusalem Post, Lahav Harkov and Reuters, January 7, 2018



EU opposes Israel’s ‘terrorist’ death penalty bill


The European Union’s position on death penalty is universal and the bloc works actively to suppress it everywhere in all circumstances, EU spokesman said Thursday.

Carlos Martin Ruiz de Gordejuela’s remarks came in response to a question posed by Anadolu Agency’s Brussels correspondent at a press briefing in the Belgian capital.

“European Union is opposed to death penalty under all circumstances and cases with no exception,” Gordejuela said.

The Knesset (Israel’s parliament) on Wednesday approved a preliminary reading of a controversial bill that would allow the Israeli authorities to impose the death penalty against Palestinians involved in “operations against Israeli targets”.

Proposed by the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, the bill’s first reading was approved by a vote of 52 to 49. A second and third reading, however, must be approved before it becomes law.

Source: Brinkwire, January 6, 2017


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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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