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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…

Bill allowing death row inmates to be executed by nitrogen gas sails through Alabama House panel

Alabama's death chamber
A bill to allow death row inmates to be executed by nitrogen gas passed the Alabama House on Wednesday.

"It's about options. It's not a debate about the death penalty," the bill's sponsor, state Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose, told the committee.

Pittman said the execution method, formally known as nitrogen hypoxia, is a humane way to put someone to death. He said nitrogen hypoxia eventually leads to unconsciousness and then death.

"It's not like asphyxiation where you build up pain and your have some issues and you understand you're under duress," Pittman said.

The bill gives death row inmates the option to choose nitrogen hypoxia, electrocution or lethal injection. 

The executions would be conducted at Holman Correctional Facility at Atmore, and the bill gives the Department of Corrections the ability to choose the accommodations for them.

Rep. Mike Holmes, R-, said the bill would create a valid option in the wake of the state's struggles with lethal injection.

"We're having problems getting chemicals," Holmes noted.

Pittman said 2 states - Mississippi and Oklahoma - allow for death by nitrogen hypoxia but the method has yet to be used in an execution.

The state Senate passed the bill late last month. It now heads to the full House.

Source: al.com, March 8, 2018


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but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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