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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…

Japan: Prosecutors seek death penalty for man accused of killing three at Kawasaki nursing home

Hayato Imai
YOKOHAMA – Prosecutors on Thursday said they are seeking the death penalty for a man charged with murdering three elderly residents at a Kawasaki nursing home in 2014 by throwing them from balconies.

As the trial wrapped up at the Yokohama District Court, the prosecutors said that Hayato Imai, 25, had committed “cruel and despicable” crimes at the facility where he worked and that he is “undoubtedly the perpetrator” since he has made “highly credible confessions to police officers.”

Imai, who worked as a care worker at the facility, maintained his innocence, telling the court, “I regret that I made false confessions after succumbing to police pressure.”

“Please believe me,” Imai added.

The focal point of the trial was the credibility of confessions Imai made during police interrogations around the time of his arrest in 2016, in which he admitted to killing the three residents. But since that time Imai has consistently said he was innocent and has pleaded not guilty, arguing that he was forced to make false statements.

The court is scheduled to hand down a ruling on March 22.

During his first court hearing on Jan. 23, Imai said, “I have done nothing in any of the cases.”

His defense counsel said there is a lack of decisive evidence and that even if he had killed the residents he was mentally incompetent at the time of the incident.

Prosecutors have said that all three victims fell from balconies at the nursing home in Kanagawa Prefecture when Imai was working night shifts, and that his confessions were “detailed and convincing.” They pointed out that Imai was the only member of staff whose shifts coincided with all three deaths. They also said there were no problems with his mental state.

According to the indictment, Imai threw Tamio Ushizawa, 87, from a balcony in November 2014, and did the same the following month to Chieko Nakagawa, 86, and Nobuko Asami, 96.

Imai was the first person to report to his superiors that Ushizawa fell to his death from a balcony. He was also the first to notify the nursing home and local fire department about Asami.

In video footage of the initial interrogations, which was partly disclosed during a hearing last month, Imai admitted to killing the three, saying he committed the crimes because he felt taking care of them was “troublesome.” But he turned silent on Feb. 18, 2016, three days after his arrest on suspicion of murder, the footage also showed.

Questions about the deaths emerged in 2015, after Imai was arrested in May that year on suspicion of stealing a purse from the room of a woman in her 70s at the facility. He was fired shortly after the arrest.

Local police admitted that they had failed to link the three deaths to a possible crime and did not properly investigate until after the third resident’s fall from a sixth-floor balcony on New Year’s Eve in 2014.

The balconies at the facility are all guarded by high safety barriers, making it unlikely that the three victims jumped on their own.

Source: Japan Times, March 1, 2018


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