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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…

Georgia: No death penalty for Gwinnett mom who killed 4 kids, husband

Isabel Martinez
A Gwinnett County woman charged with killing her husband and four children will not face the death penalty when her case goes to trial.

Isabel Martinez entered a plea of not guilty to stabbing her 9-year-old daughter and killing the five other members of her family at a brief Monday morning arraignment.

The Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office had not formally declared their intent to seek the death penalty by the time of the arraignment. That is the legal deadline to decide whether or not a defendant will be eligible for the death penalty.

Martinez, 34, is charged with five counts of murder, one count of aggravated assault and one count of third-degree cruelty to children in connection with the July 2017 attack that left 9-year-old Diana Romero seriously injured and 33-year-old Martin Romero, 2-year-old Axel Romero, 4-year-old Dillan Romero, 7-year-old Dacota Romero and 10-year-old Isabela Martinez all dead.

The DA’s office confirmed the decision not to seek the death penalty to Channel 2 Action News. The decision was made due to Martinez’s “apparent mental issues,” District Attorney Danny Porter told Channel 2.

Martinez had been depressed in  the months before the killings and had experienced outbursts of anger and sadness that friends considered unusual, neighbors told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Martinez felt a “devil-like spirit” was trying to take her children when they were playing in the ocean near Savannah shortly before the killings, she told a Department of Family and Child Services worker after her arrest.

Court records do not indicate that Martinez has been ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation. Her attorneys, Josh Moore and Laura Berg, did not respond to phone calls from the AJC.

Martinez, who mimed praying and gave news cameras a double thumbs up at her first court hearing in July, smiled meekly as she walked into the courtroom Monday morning. She did not speak at the hearing.

Martinez had previously told police that a “family friend” committed the stabbings in her Loganville home, but she did not give police the name of that alleged friend. The attack is believed to have occurred between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. July 7.

Diana Romero, the only surviving child, told a DFCS worker that Martinez began stabbing the children first; when Martin Romero tried to stop her, Martinez stabbed him, according to a DFCS report. Martinez was not crying or screaming as she killed her family members, and told Diana Romero that she was “going to the sky to see Jesus,” Diana Romero told a DFCS worker.

Martinez called 911 at 4:47 a.m. on July 6, and first responders found her with a cut wrist, sitting among the six stabbing victims, according to Gwinnett County police. She was detained and charged that afternoon, and has since been held without bond at the Gwinnett County Detention Center.

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, Amanda C. Coyne, April 16, 2018


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