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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…

Ohio Death Penalty Sentencing Process Ruled Constitutional

Jury box
Ohio's death penalty sentencing process is different in critical ways from a Florida sentencing scheme struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled today. 

The state's high court unanimously rejected a Marion County man's challenge to the Ohio process, which he claimed violated an accused murderer's constitutional rights.

The ruling affirmed the death penalty of Maurice Mason, who was convicted of the rape and murder of Robbin Dennis in 1993. Mason had won the right to challenge his original death sentence in 2008. When his case went before the Marion County Common Pleas Court in 2016, he argued the U.S. Supreme Court's 2016 Hurst v. Florida decision, which invalidated that state's death penalty sentencing process, applies to Ohio. 

The trial court agreed that Ohio's scheme was unconstitutional based on Hurst. Marion County prosecutors appealed the decision, and later in 2016, the Third District Court of Appeals reversed the decision and affirmed the death sentence.

In Hurst, the U.S. Supreme Court found Florida's law violated the right to a jury trial guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment. 

Writing for the Ohio Supreme Court today, Justice Patrick F. Fischer explained that unlike procedures in Florida and other states, an Ohio jury makes every necessary finding to impose a death sentence, and that satisfies the Sixth Amendment requirements.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Justices Judith L. French and R. Patrick DeWine joined Justice Fischer's opinion. Sixth District Court of Appeals Judge James D. Jensen, sitting for recused Justice Terrence O'Donnell, and Second District Court of Appeals Judge Michael T. Hall, sitting for recused former Justice William M. O'Neill, also joined the majority opinion.

Justice Sharon L. Kennedy delivered a concurring opinion, in which she wrote that the Ohio Supreme Court's 2016 State v. Belton decision already determined the that Hurst ruling did not invalidate Ohio's death penalty sentencing process.

Source: Court News Ohio, April 18, 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