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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…

Northeast Texas man on death row for strangling girlfriend turned down by SCOTUS

Daniel Acker
The U.S. Supreme Court turned down Daniel Acker's appeal on Monday.

A northeast Texas man convicted of strangling his girlfriend moved one step closer to a possible execution date after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday turned down his appeal despite what his lawyer described as a "compelling case of actual innocence."

Daniel Acker was sent to death row in 2001 for the slaying of Marquetta George. The two were sharing a rented trailer in Hopkins County in March 2000 when they got in a fight after a night at the Bustin' Loose nightclub.

Afterward, they parted ways and later Acker went searching for the 32-year-old Sulphur Springs woman, according to court filings. Her body was eventually found bloodied and beaten on the side of a road, and investigators fingered Acker for the killing.

At trial, the defense argued that George jumped out of the couple's truck and was hit. Prosecutors said her boyfriend strangled her, then dumped her body.

Acker was sentenced to death and has spent the past 18 years fighting his case, at times filing appeals on his own.

The latest appeal, filed by attorney A. Richard Ellis, argued that prosecutors used false testimony from experts and repeatedly changed their theory of the crime. The case at trial was predicated on the theory that George was strangled - and the defense argued that she wasn't, and that an expert for the state later admitted it.

Ellis also contended that the trial court of wrongly refused to allow evidence that could have shown Acker's innocence.

But this week the nation's highest court without comment turned down the case.

"I am of course very disappointed that the Supreme Court declined to review Mr. Acker's compelling case of actual innocence," Ellis said.

"This was a tragic accident, where the victim jumped from Mr. Acker's truck -- an accident for which he has taken full responsibility from the time he turned himself in to the authorities -- but not a murder," he continued. "Going forward, we will be assessing our options to prevent a terrible miscarriage of justice."

Acker does not yet have an execution date set.

Source: Houston Chronicle, Keri Blakinger, April 16, 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