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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…

U.S. Supreme court won't hear Mobile cop-killer's appeal

Vernon Madison
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a request by a convicted Mobile cop-killer, who is scheduled to be executed Jan. 25, to rehear his appeal.

The U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) had ruled in November that Alabama can execute Vernon Madison, a death row inmate who claims to be mentally incompetent. Madison initially was granted a stay of his execution by SCOTUS just hours before his scheduled 2016 execution.

Madison, 67, one of Alabama's longest-serving death row inmates, was convicted in the April 1985 slaying of Mobile police officer Cpl. Julius Schulte.

In November, however, SCOTUS unanimously reversed its earlier decision, saying Madison can be executed. "More than 30 years ago, Vernon Madison crept up behind police officer Julius Schulte and shot him twice in the head at close range," that ruling stated.

In its ruling Monday to reject Madison's request for a rehearing, SCOTUS did not issue a written explanation.

Courts had been split on whether Madison was competent to be executed. Madison faced a state competency hearing before his scheduled 2016 execution, where he claimed several strokes he recently suffered affected his mental status and made him unable to remember his crimes or remember that he was on death row. The trial court denied Madison's petition, and said the execution could proceed.

But then the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Madison was incompetent and he could not be executed.

Madison's attorney, Angie Setzer with the Equal Justice Initiative, in an email to AL.com stated that the media have misreported what the Supreme Court has done in the case. "The Supreme Court has not concluded that Mr. Madison is competent to be executed; the Court has made it clear that is an unresolved question. What the Court said is that a federal court constrained by the restrictions imposed by federal habeas law cannot make that determination. The Court's decision denying rehearing affirms that judgment but Mr. Madison's competence to be executed is still yet to be decided.

Source:  al.com, Kent Faulk, January 9, 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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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning