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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…

Execution Delayed in Pennsylvania for Notorious Killer Raghunandan Yandamuri


Raghunandan Yandamuri
Raghunandan Yandamuri, the 1st Indian American on death row, was not put to death by lethal injection on Feb. 23, his scheduled execution date, as the state of Pennsylvania has a moratorium on the death penalty since 2015. 

Pennsylvania District Court Judge Petrese Tucker issued a stay of execution for Yandamuri Jan. 16, based on a request by the killer, who - during court proceedings - told a judge he wanted to die for the crimes he had committed, and asked that the death sentence be imposed upon him. He received two death sentences, which he later appealed but lost last April. 

Amy Worden, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, told India-West that another warrant would have to be signed for the execution to proceed. "For now he remains on the capital case unit," she said. 

The Pennsylvania Board of Pardons would have to determine if Yandamuri's death sentence can be commuted to a life sentence, said Worden. 

Sue McNaughton, communications director, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, told PTI in January that the likelihood of Yandamuri being executed is slim. She noted that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has said he would issue a reprieve if a court did not grant the stay. 

Pennsylvania has not carried out any executions in the past 20 years. Yandamuri is incarcerated at the Greene State Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania. 

In 2014, Yandamuri was sentenced to die by lethal injection for murdering 10-month-old Saanvi Venna and her 61-year-old grandmother, Satyavathi Venna. A jury deliberated for just 3 hours before declaring Yandamuri guilty (see India-West story here: http://bit.ly/2DhvWch). 

After he was arrested in 2012, the killer provided a chilling account of how he entered the Vennas' apartment while Saanvi's parents, Venkata and Latha, were at work. He fatally stabbed Satyavathi - who was attempting to protect her granddaughter - before kidnapping the baby, which he hoped to use to obtain $50,000 in ransom from her parents. 

Yandamuri and his wife Komali were friends with the Vennas and lived in the same apartment building in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. 

After kidnapping Saanvi, Yandamuri covered her mouth and stuffed the baby in a suitcase, then left her at a basement gym in the apartment building, where she suffocated to death. During a frantic 3-day search by police and the local community, Yandamuri handed out missing baby flyers. 

The H-1B tech worker was arrested later that week at a local gambling casino. Earlier India-West stories reported that Yandamuri had accrued $35,000 in gambling debts and had filed for bankruptcy while working in Northern California. His wife Komali was pregnant at the time of the murders. She has returned to India.

Source: indiawest.com, February, 2018


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