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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…

Texas death row inmate slated for execution Wednesday denied clemency

Erick Davila
A Fort Worth man on Texas death row was denied clemency and a late-stage federal appeal on Monday, barely 48 hours before he is scheduled for execution in the Huntsville death chamber.

Erick Davila was convicted of killing a rival gang member's mother and a 5-year-old girl at a Hannah Montana-themed children's birthday party in 2008.

He was sentenced to death in 2009 but his lawyers have since argued that Annette and Queshawn Stevenson were not his intended victims, according to court filings. Instead, attorney Seth Kretzer alleged that Davila was high at the time of the slayings, and also that he only meant to one person, rival gang member Jerry Stevenson. Killing one person is not necessarily a death-eligible crime.

"The jury never learned that at the time of the shooting Davila was heavily intoxicated, likely to the degree that it would have rendered him temporarily insane," Kretzer wrote in a court filing earlier this month.

Kretzer said prosecutors of withheld knowledge that Davila was on a combination of PCP, ecstasy and marijuana - an alleged oversight that he said would violate a Supreme Court decision known as Brady v. Maryland, which requires prosecutors to turn over evidence favorable to the defense.

But the U.S. Fifth Circuit, in a Monday decision, wrote that defense lawyers could have already known about Davila's heavy drug use the night of the crime.

"We are unpersuaded that his counsel was not also reasonably on notice about the relation between drugs and the events of the shooting," the court wrote.

Now, Davila's lawyer is pursuing his claims in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Davila is scheduled to die by lethal injection Wednesday at 6 p.m. If everything continues as planned, he will be the fifth Texas inmate to be executed in 2018.

Source: chron.com, Keri Blakinger, April 24, 2018


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