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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…

Lawyers say Alabama death row inmate mentally incompetent

SCOTUS
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Lawyers on Monday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the upcoming execution of an Alabama inmate who they say was mentally ill when he moved to fire his lawyers and drop his appeals.

Michael Eggers is scheduled to be executed Thursday for the 2000 choking death of Bennie Francis Murray, his boss at a traveling carnival concession business. 

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in December upheld a district court ruling that Eggers was competent when he made a decision to fire his lawyers and drop his appeals.

Attorneys wrote Monday that Eggers is severely mentally ill and wrongly believes he is the subject of a government conspiracy involving multiple people “seeking revenge” on him.

Attorneys said Eggers has asked to be executed on nine separate occasions because he becomes frustrated that appointed lawyers won’t litigate his case in a way to try to prove that his delusions are real.

“We have a mentally ill death-sentenced inmate using Alabama’s system as his method of suicide because he cannot get anyone to believe that his delusions are not delusions,” attorneys wrote.

The appeal to the Supreme Court was made without Eggers’ consent.

Source: The Associated Press, Kim Chandler, March 12, 2018


Alabama Plans to Execute Michael Eggers Despite Severe Mental Illness


Michael Eggers
Michael Eggers is facing an execution date this Thursday, March 15, without legal help because a judge allowed him to fire his attorneys and abandon his appeals despite strong evidence that he is severely mentally ill.

Mr. Eggers has a personal and family history of mental illness. His brother is institutionalized in a mental hospital with schizophrenia, and family observed that Mr. Eggers showed symptoms similar to his brother. In 1985, when he was 17, narcotics officers in California compelled him to make some controlled marijuana purchases. Since then, Mr. Eggers has believed that the Mexican Mafia and other outlaw groups, law enforcement agencies, and the government are conspiring to persecute him -- following him from California as he fled to eight different states to evade them; checking into the psych ward to torment him when he was involuntarily committed for emergency psychiatric care; and even killing his father in retaliation for the killing of his former employer in Walker County, Alabama, in 2000.

Jail and prison authorities recognized Mr. Eggers's mental illness and treated him with anti-psychotic medications. Correctional officers observed he was paranoid, delusional, and suicidal, and placed him in protective custody after he tried to kill himself.

Mr. Eggers also has sent thousands of pages to state and federal courts that demonstrate his mental illness. He has fired numerous lawyers for refusing to argue that he killed the victim because he was "the victim of 3 separate conspiracies 2 of which involve government agencies at different times in the past." He accused state and federal courts, the prosecution, and all of his lawyers of participating in the conspiracy against him along with "thousands" of others who pursued him across the United States, and he demonstrated behavior in court that the judge observed was "not following any kind of legal logic" and amounted to "talking in circles."

In federal court, Mr. Eggers filed nearly 100 pleadings he wrote himself in which he complained about his lawyers' refusal to argue his conspiracy theory, sought to fire them, asked to represent himself, and sometimes threatened to waive his appeals. The federal trial court nonetheless refused to hold a competency hearing until it was ordered by the federal appeals court. Despite credible evidence proving that he has a psychotic spectrum disorder and a history of irrational behavior and delusions, the court was unconvinced that Mr. Eggers's beliefs "are actually delusional" and granted his request to fire his lawyers, waive his appeals, and be executed. The Eleventh Circuit upheld that ruling in December.

Executing people who have a mental illness, disorder, or disability that significantly impairs their cognitive or volitional functioning at the time of the offense violates the Constitution because, like children and people with intellectual disability, they are less culpable and less deterrable due to their "diminished capacities to understand and process information, to communicate, to abstract from mistakes and learn from experience, to engage in logical reasoning, to control impulses, and to understand the reactions of others." EJI believes that states have the ability to humanely imprison and treat mentally ill citizens who have committed violent crimes without killing them.

Source: eji.org, March 12, 2018

➤ Related content: American Bar Association: Severe Mental Illness and the Death Penalty (pdf)


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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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