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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…

Florida shooter Nikolas Cruz charged, faces death penalty over Parkland massacre

Nikolas Cruz
Florida school shooting suspect Nikolas Cruz has been formally charged with 17 counts of 1st-degree murder and 17 counts of attempted murder, which could mean a death sentence if he's convicted.

A grand jury in Fort Lauderdale returned the indictment against the 19-year-old Cruz for the Valentine's Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in which 17 people died and 16 were wounded.

Cruz's public defender has said he'll plead guilty if prosecutors take the death penalty off the table, which would mean a life prison sentence.

The Broward County state lawyer hasn't announced a decision on the death penalty.

The news came the New York Post reported that Cruz has been "smiling and giggling" while in isolation behind bars, with insiders describing him as "well-groomed" with a "quiet demeanour" and restless at night.

Cruz was housed in a single-man cell in the infirmary and away from the general population because of his high-profile status, CNN reported.

The 19-year-old's behaviour was noted on February 20.

"Appeared to break out in laughter both during and immediately following his professional visit at 1848 hours and later at 1910 hours," a deputy wrote.

Other notes from three deputies from that day described Cruz as "well-groomed, calm/quiet demeanour," "follows commands, talks softly and very little," "follows commands and responds to questions," "appears slower than normal in his movement."

Cruz was moved to a different cell February 23 and received a visit from his lawyers.

He appeared to be "coherent" during the chat, according to a deputy who noted, "inmate was also observed smiling and giggling."

Cruz was described as having trouble sleeping February 21, 22 and 24.

On February 22, a deputy wrote at 2:48am that Cruz was "restless" and "tossing from time to time."

That observation was repeated at 3:36am by another deputy.

Another noted at 11:20am, "restless, tossing from time to time in his bunk, staring at ceiling."

On some days, Cruz is described as avoiding eye contact and looking "downward with a blank stare."

Deputies also said he "often sits with a blank stare, appears to be in thought" and that his thinking appeared "logical."

On February 24, Cruz ate his entire breakfast, showered and brushed his teeth and was "given time to walk outside his cell and did so."

He then was visited by an unidentified family member.

Cruz requested to read a Bible before trying to turn in for the night.

"(Twists) and turns in bunk, does not sleep, stares at wall in deep thought, eyes closed, appears to be resting, not asleep," a deputy wrote.

Cruz's lawyer Gordon Weekes warned against reading too much into the jail notes.

"They are snippets, observations from corrections officers and are not clinical impressions made by his treating psychologist or psychiatrist at the jail. They don't show a complete picture," he said. "They are generated because Mr. Cruz has a high-profile case and is on suicide watch."

Source: news.com.au, March 8, 2018


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