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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…

Jeff Sessions: It's OK with feds if Alabama executes judge's killer

Walter Moody Jr.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday paved the way for this week's execution of death row inmate Walter Leroy Moody for the 1989 pipe bombing that killed a federal judge.

Last week Moody asked the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to stay his lethal injection execution, which is set for 6 p.m. Thursday at Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore. 

Moody recently argued the federal government which convicted him first on non-death penalty charges should have him in custody instead of the state.

The appeals court held a hearing Thursday but has not yet ruled.

Justice Department attorneys at that hearing and in written briefs have said that they have had an agreement since the 1990s to allow Moody to serve his sentence in Alabama. Then on Monday the Justice Department filed another brief on behalf of Sessions.

"Before the United States filed its amicus brief in this case and presented its position at oral argument, the Attorney General, Jefferson B. Sessions, III, informed the undersigned Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Matthew S. Miner, that the United States waives its right to exclusive custody of petitioner Walter Leroy Moody, Jr. and consents to his custody in Alabama for purposes of carrying out the capital sentence imposed on Moody in Alabama," the brief filed Monday states.

Walter Leroy Moody Jr., 83, is the oldest inmate on Alabama Death Row.

He was convicted in the death of U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr., who was killed Dec. 16, 1989 in a blast from a pipe bomb hidden in a package sent to the judge's Mountain Brook home. The judge's wife, Helen, was seriously injured in the blast.

In 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody of 71 charges related to the pipe-bomb murders of Vance and Georgia civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson, who also was killed in a pipe-bomb blast 5 days after the judge. That federal trial was conducted in Minnesota. 

Moody was placed on death row after a jury convicted him of capital murder at a trial in Alabama 5 years later. 

The jury recommended 11-1 that the death penalty be imposed and the judge agreed.

Source: al.com, Kent Faulk, April 16, 2018


Lawyer to Alabama governor: Judge killed by bomb would oppose death penalty


Death penalty
A lawyer on Monday asked Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey to halt Thursday's execution of Alabama death row inmate Walter Leroy Moody and commute the convicted judge killer's sentence to life without parole.

Moody's attorney claims in the letter to Ivey that U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr. - the man Moody is convicted of killing with a pipe bomb in 1989 - did not believe in the death penalty.

"It is crucial that someone in the process consider the wishes of the victim for whom the sentence is being carried out," the letter from attorney Spencer Hahn states. "As the only person with the power and responsibility to decide whether Mr. Moody will be executed or permitted to die a natural death, that solemn and important duty is yours."

The letter cites statements made a few of Vance's former law clerks and his son.

"Indeed, my father often made decisions with which he personally disagreed. He did not believe that the death penalty was a proper form of punishment, and he considered death penalty cases to be almost unbearable. During his tenure, however, he affirmed a great number of death penalty convictions because they were found to be the result of proper administration of our justice system, and he knew that it was not his role to change that system to suit his personal preferences," Bob Vance Jr. was quoted in the letter as having said at the University of Alabama School of Law a year after his dad's death.

Bob Vance Jr. is now a circuit judge in Jefferson County and is running this year for chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. He recently echoed that same statement in an interview with AL.com.

His father handled a few death row cases, including one involving infamous serial killer Ted Bundy in Florida. "And he really struggled with death penalty cases because personally he was against the death penalty ... but he had to put aside his personal beliefs as a judge" and follow the law, the younger Vance said.

In Monday's letter Hahn asked Ivey to invoke her power of clemency.

"Just as Judge Vance recognized the limitations of his power, as a federal judge, to end the death penalty, you should recognize and exercise the power entrusted to you, pursuant to the Alabama Constitution, to commute Mr. Moody's death sentence to one of life without parole. I urge you to honor Judge Vance by exercising your constitutional authority and respecting his wishes," the letter to Ivey states.

U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr. was killed Dec. 16, 1989 in a blast from a pipe bomb hidden in a package sent to the judge's Mountain Brook, Ala., home.

Walter Leroy Moody Jr., 83, is the oldest inmate on Alabama death row.

He was convicted in the death of U.S. 11th Circuit of Appeals Judge Robert Vance Sr., who was killed Dec. 16, 1989 in a blast from a pipe bomb hidden in a package sent to the judge's Mountain Brook home. The judge's wife, Helen, was seriously injured in the blast.

In 1991, a federal jury convicted Moody of 71 charges related to the pipe-bomb murders of Vance and Georgia civil rights attorney Robert E. Robinson, who also was killed in a pipe-bomb blast 2 days after the judge. That federal trial was conducted in Minnesota. Moody was placed on death row after a jury convicted him of capital murder at a trial in Alabama 5 years later. The jury recommended 11-1 that the death penalty be imposed and the judge agreed.

Source:  al.com, Kent Faulk, April 16, 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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