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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…

One of the busiest death chambers in the US is fine-tuning its executions

Oklahoma's death chamber
Oklahoma holds one of the busiest death chambers in the US, but for the third year in a row, it has not carried out an execution.

The state—one of more than 30 in the US that has the death penalty—isn’t dialing back on the number of inmates it condemns to death. 

Instead, prison officials and state attorneys are trying to fine-tune its execution procedures after a series of blunders.

A number of botched executions resulted in 2014 being dubbed the worst year in history for the lethal injection. 

In 2015, Oklahoma used a wrong drug in its lethal-injection cocktail to execute Charles Warner—the first known instance of such a mix-up in the US. 

That same year, an inmate was moments away from execution before officials realized its lethal injection also had the wrong formula.

In a statement given to the Associated Press, Republican governor Mary Fallin said the “most solemn responsibility for a state is the taking of a life.”

“The state needs to be certain that its protocols and procedures for executions work,” she added while throwing support behind Oklahoma’s attorney general and Department of Corrections director to carry out these changes.

Currently, 47 of the total 2,817 death-row inmates awaiting execution in the US are in Oklahoma.

Source: Quartz, Lianna Brinded, December 28, 2017


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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning