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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…

State appeals court affirms jailing of Mennonite who won’t testify in death penalty case

Greta Lindecrantz
The Colorado Court of Appeals on Friday affirmed a contempt of court ruling, thereby keeping a Mennonite investigator, who is refusing to testify in a death penalty case, in jail.

The judges listened to arguments for about an hour from attorneys representing Greta Lindecrantz, the 67-year-old who has been in jail since Monday for contempt of court, and Arapahoe County District Judge Michelle Amico, who sent her there.

The three-judge panel did not make an immediate decision, although Presiding Judge Jerry Jones said they would consider the case carefully and quickly.  He opened the hearing by saying, “We are acutely aware this is a very serious matter.”

Later in the day,  the panel affirmed the ruling.

“Ms. Lindecrantz is in a tough spot — caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. We take no pleasure in declining to extricate her. But the state of the law being what it is, decline we must,” Judge Jones said in the ruling. Judges Robert D. Hawthorne and Diana Terry concurred.

“I am obviously disappointed,” said Mari Newman, Lindecrantz’s attorney. “The court had no interest in finding a way for her to testify without abandoning her religious beliefs.”

Lindecrantz was called to testify by the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in an appeals hearing being held for Robert Ray, a man sentenced to death in 2009 for a murder-for-hire plot to kill two witnesses in another murder case. The appeals hearing, which is mandatory, is challenging the work done by his original defense team, and Lindecrantz served as an investigator on that team.

She has said that testifying on behalf of the prosecution would put her at odds with her Mennonite faith, which is opposed to the death penalty.

A lawyer representing Amico told the appeals court that allowing someone to refuse to participate in a criminal proceeding because of religious beliefs would cause disarray in the courts.

“Ms. Lindecrantz’s position has opened a Pandora’s Box,” said Matthew Grove, assistant solicitor general.

Newman had asked the court if her client could take the stand as a court-sponsored witness, rather than one for the prosecution.

Source: The Denver Post, N. Phillips, K. Nicholson, March 2, 2018


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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