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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 seeing steady decline in number of death sentences

Florida's death row
Florida has been seeing a steady decline in the number of criminals sentenced to death. Currently, there are 347 inmates on death row, but "only" 96 have been put to death since 1979.

In fact, 2016 and 2017 saw a record low, with only 6 people sent to death row combined; a number far fewer than any single year since the death penalty was reinstated nearly 50 years ago.

Experts claim that a possible reason for these low numbers is the fact that jury convictions for death sentences have to be unanimous

Florida halted executions in January of 2016 after the U.S. Supreme Court claimed that the state’s sentencing process was unconstitutional, which led to the requirement of the unanimous jury vote.

Nationally, death sentences have dropped dramatically down 90 percent in the last 20 years.

Ingrid Delgado with the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops says that Floridians’ attitudes towards the death penalty is also changing.

"We're cautiously optimistic that the higher standard is going to continue to lower number of death sentences," Delgado said. "In general, we support an end to the use of the death penalty, as society can be kept safe with alternatives like life without parole."

However, experts say that the trend toward fewer death sentences isn’t likely to continue.

"It would not be unreasonable to anticipate that the numbers may increase again since the legislature has final responded to the U.S. Supreme Court," said Mark Schlakman, a human rights attorney.

There has already been 1 person sentenced to death in Florida since the start of 2018.

Source:  WCTC news, April 14, 2018


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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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In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning