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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…

Iraq gives death sentence to Islamic State 'judge'

Iraqi Federal Police officers
An Iraqi court has given the death penalty to a man who acted as a legislative judge in Mosul for the Islamic State (IS) when the group was in control of the city, said a judicial spokesman on Thursday.

The defendant, whose name was not specified, was reported to have been in charge of marriage contracts in Mosul and surrounding areas.

"The Nineveh Criminal Court sentenced an Islamic State militant to death," said Abdul Sattar al-Birqdar, spokesperson for Iraq's Higher Judicial Council, in a statement. "The convict used to work as a judge in the marriage contracts court, within the so-called legislative courts of Islamic State in Mosul."

1 day before, al-Birqdar and another judicial official announced that, since the beginning of the year, over 300 suspects have been handed death sentences for crimes related to IS membership.

The cases, being heard in federal courts in Baghdad and Nineveh provinces, also resulted in several hundred lesser sentences, including life imprisonment.

The rise of executions in the country has led the UN mission in Iraq, the EU, and international human rights groups to criticize Iraq for a lack of transparency in its courts.

"These executions follow rushed trials of ISIS suspects which are riddled with due process violations, including convictions based solely on confessions which are sometimes extracted by torture," said HRW senior Iraq researcher Belkis Wille in a press release on Tuesday.

The death penalty in Iraq was suspended on June 10, 2003, but was reinstated the following year. Critics say that the country's flawed and confession-based criminal justice system in which torture is routinely used to extract confessions is incompatible with so final a sentence as capital punishment.

Iraq's Justice Ministry announced on Monday that it had executed 13 convicted prisoners, 11 of them over charges of terrorism.

Last year, Iraqi forces arrested tens of thousands of those accused of being Islamic State (IS) members and affiliates, most of whom await sentencing.

Source: kurdistan24.net, April 21, 2018


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