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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…

Union Cabinet clears ordinance on death penalty to child rapists

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NEW DELHI: In the wake of outrage over the brutal rape and murder of a minor in Kathua, Jammu & Kashmir, the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday approved an ordinance to allow courts to pronounce the death penalty to those convicted of raping children up to 12 years of age.

The criminal law amendment ordinance seeks to amend the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Evidence Act, the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act to introduce a new provision to sentence convicts of such crimes to death.

Today's ordinance approved by the Cabinet also prescribes the minimum punishment in case of rape of women to increase from rigorous imprisonment of 7 years to 10 years, extendable to life imprisonment. In case of rape of a girl under 16 years, minimum punishment has been increased from 10 years to 20 years, extendable to imprisonment for rest of life, which means imprisonment till that person’s natural life.

For speedy trial of rape cases, new fast track courts will be set up in consultation with States/UTs and High Courts.

The ordinance also prescribes that there will be no provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of rape or gang rape of a girl under 16 years.

The ordinance is being initiated to enforce the amendment immediately before a bill is introduced and passed by Parliament. After the case of the eight-year-old Kathua victim, other instances, such as in Surat where a nine-year-old was raped and killed, have added urgency to the government’s actions.

The ordinance would be now sent to the President for his approval.

Existing provisions of the POCSO Act provide for life imprisonment, though after the Nirbhaya case in 2012 the Centre had introduced the death penalty in cases where a woman either dies or is left in a vegetative state after rape.

Recently, four states passed laws making the rape of a minor punishable by death.

The Cabinet meet follows the Centre informing the Supreme Court on Friday that it proposed to amend POCSO to provide for the death penalty for aggravated sexual assaults on children below 12.

Source: The Times of India, April 21, 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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