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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…

Parkland school shooter makes first live appearance in court

Nikolas Cruz
Shackled and wearing a red jump suit, school shooter Nikolas Cruz made his first live appearance in a Broward County circuit court five days after he walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and fatally shot 17 people in the worst school shooting in Florida history.

Cruz, a slightly built teen, did not say anything and never looked up at the crowd or the judge from his seat at the defense table. He kept his head and eyes downcast, even as his defense attorney whispered to him. It was a tense atmosphere — Cruz was surrounded by Broward Sheriff’s deputies as news media members and lawyers watched from the gallery.

He is facing 17 counts of premeditated murder and could face the death penalty. The Broward County Public Defender’s Office, which is representing Cruz, has already said he will admit guilt if prosecutors will waive execution as punishment.

After his arrest last week, Cruz made a first court appearance via closed-circuit television from a detention facility. He was held with no bond.

Cruz appeared in court shortly before another hearing in which a judge ordered the release of 22 pages of documents relating to a state family welfare investigation into the teen’s mental health woes. The Florida Department of Children & Families had petitioned for the release of the documents, which have already been reported on by the Miami Herald and other media outlets.

The DCF case, opened on Sept. 28, 2016, classified Cruz as a “vulnerable adult” victim with multiple mental health concerns, including severe depression, ADHD and autism — he was reported to be cutting himself and wanting to buy a gun after a breakup with a girlfriend. The case was closed when investigators determined Cruz was getting proper mental-health treatment.

“There were multiple red flags that were missed,” said Broward Chief Assistant Public Defender Gordon Weeks, whose office is representing Cruz. He said he hoped the documents would continue to demonstrate “that there was a systematic break” and that numerous agencies failed Cruz by ignoring “the many cries for help from this child.”

As for Cruz’s hearing before a criminal court judge, the hearing revolved around a court document Cruz’s attorneys filed under seal late Friday before another judge. The Broward County Public Defender’s Office on Monday morning asked that the motion filed with the court be “stricken” from the record because what the office was seeking “was moot.”

Broward Circuit Judge Elizabeth Scherer, at an afternoon hearing, ruled that the motion dealt with a “limited” issue involving the defense team’s “access” to their client. A lawyer representing the Herald and other news media tried to participate in the hearing but Broward deputies refused to allow her to approach the court or speak.

Weekes, Broward’s chief assistant public defender, refused to speak about the defense’s court filings or his client. He said Monday’s court hearing was not originally supposed to take place.

“Our goal is to give the community an opportunity to grieve,” Weekes said.

Source: Miami Herald, David Ovalle, Sarah Blaskey, February 19, 2018


Senator Marco Rubio says he believes alleged Florida shooter should be executed


Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said he believes the person who opened fire last week at a Florida high school should be executed.

During an interview with CBS Miami, Rubio was asked whether he believes Nikolas Cruz, who has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder, should get the death penalty.

"The answer is yes," Rubio said.

But he added it's a tough question to answer because he has larger concerns about the death penalty.

"Not in a case like this, I have concerns in the broader sense about how not everyone gets equal representation in death panels," he said.

"But in this particular case, it'd be hard to argue against the death penalty."

His comments come after Cruz last week allegedly opened fire at a Florida high school, killing 17 people and wounding 14 more.

The FBI has faced scrutiny over its handling of Cruz.

A person close to Cruz called the FBI's public tipline in January and raised concerns about a possible school shooting, citing Cruz's gun ownership and desire to kill.

But the FBI never reported the tip to its Miami field office or investigated the claim.

President Trump ripped the FBI in a tweet over the weekend, suggesting the bureau could have stopped Cruz if it spent less time working on the Russia probe.

Source: thehill.com, February 20, 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