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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…

Pakistan: Prisoners' request for painless execution denied

Noose
A court has turned down attempts by 2 death row prisoners who wanted the way death sentences are carried out to be changed.

A 2-judge bench of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) comprising Justice Roohul Amin and Justice Qalandar Ali Khan on Thursday dismissed petitions filed by 2 death row prisoners who have challenged the penalty of "hanging till death" and instead asked for a 'less painful' mode of execution in accordance with modern scientific developments.

The petitioners, Jan Bahadur and Gul Wali, on death row at the Haripur prison for the past 20 years, had challenged hangings.

"Hanging to death is unIslamic and unconstitutional," Khurshid Khan, the lawyer for the petitioners, told the court. He insisted that it was painful and against human values.

"If you are punishing them according to the English law, why do you not execute them through a modern mode?" he asked, noting that the prisoners preferred to have their sentence carried out through a lethal injection instead of being hanged by their necks.

Bahadur had been sentenced to death by an additional district and sessions judge in Takht Bhai on April 7, 2000, for a 1993 murder. After he challenged the mode of execution in July 2017, a stay was granted on the execution of his sentence.

Wali has been on the death row at the Haripur jail for past 22 years and recently submitted a similar application.

"We are not against the executions, but against the mode of execution in Pakistan, which is a cruel one," Khurshid argued. He added that before the arrival of the British in united India, there was no concept of hanging to death.

He further argued that Article 2 of the constitution provides that no law in the country will be made against Islam.

"As hanging by neck till death is not in accordance with Islamic teachings, therefore it is requested to amend section 368," the petitioners contended. Section 368 of the Pakistan Criminal Procedure Code provides that when "any person is sentenced to death, the sentence shall direct that he be hanged by the neck till he is dead."

Khurshid further argued that the court should seek the viewed of the Council of Islamic Ideology.

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The 2-judge bench, though, dismissed the petitions, on the basis that the matter did not fall within the high court's jurisdiction, rather, it should be taken up with the Federal Shariat Court instead to decide whether or not any law is repugnant to the injunctions of Islam.

"There is no subordination in judicial matters," justice Qalander said.

"If a judgment is upheld by the Supreme Court, then there is no jurisdiction of the High Court. Hanging to death is maintained by the Supreme Court," he maintained.

Source: The Express Tribune, January 11, 2018


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