In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

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…

Victim’s family pardons five Indians on death row in UAE

Dubai Courts
Indians who killed man in 2011 group fight return home after benefactor helps them pay blood money

Dubai: Five Indians, who were spared death penalty for murdering a compatriot in a group fight, are now back home after the victim’s family accepted the blood money and pardoned them.

The unmarried youths had a reunion with their families — two of them after nine years — after they served about six-and-a-half years in jail following the murder of Virendra Chauhan.

Dharmendra, Harwinder Singh, Ranjit Ram, Dalwinder Singh and Sucha Singh had been sentenced to death after they were convicted of killing Chauhan during a brawl between two groups of bootleggers in Sharjah in November 2011.

"I wanted them to feel guilty for indulging in the fight and work hard to repay their families. So, I gave them only the amount that their families were falling short of."  - S.P. Singh Oberoi, Indian hotelier who helped the convicts 

Their release became possible after their appeal to be spared death was taken up by Indian hotelier S.P. Singh Oberoi, who is known for rescuing many from death penalty by paying blood money to the victims’ families.

Speaking to Gulf News from India, Oberoi said he took up the case of the youngsters as he was convinced that it was not an intentional murder and their families would suffer if their capital punishment was executed.

He said he wasn’t justifying the convicts and wanted them also to serve the jail sentence the court would order.

The court reduced their sentence to three-and-a-half years in jail after Oberoi managed to convince Chauhan’s family to pardon them.

“I went to his house with some family members of these boys to seek their pardon by accepting the blood money.”

A total of Rs2.1 million (Dh116,245) was paid in blood money to Chauhan’s wife and six children, of which Rs1.3 million was raised by the convicts’ families, he said.

“I wanted them to feel guilty for indulging in the fight and work hard to repay their families. So, I gave them only the amount that their families were falling short of.”

Since the convicts had already spent more than the prescribed term in jail, the court released them immediately after they secured the pardon of the victim’s family.

Oberoi said the Indian Consulate in Dubai provided emergency exit papers and flight tickets for three of them as they were not employed with any companies and did not have valid travel documents.

“The other two got flight tickets from the companies where they worked before the case.”

Sucha Singh, who reached his home in a remote village in the state of Punjab on Friday, said it is now a second life for the youths.

“We didn’t know if we would ever see our families again,” said Singh who reunited with his family after over nine years.

He had first come over to the UAE in 2009 to work with a labour supply company.

“There was no proper salary or regular job for several months and I left the company after two years. I couldn’t visit my family before going to jail as I was staying without a visa.”

However, the family reunion was incomplete for him since his mother had passed away in 2012 while he was in jail.

Oberoi said the number of bootlegging-linked murder cases in the UAE has come down over the years as severe punishment like death sentence has become a deterrent.

Starting with the much-publicised case of 17 Indians on death row in a similar incident in 2010, Oberoi said he has so far helped get 93 prisoners released in the UAE.

“That includes 13 Pakistanis, five Bangladeshis and one Filipina woman, who was jailed for causing the death of a woman in a road accident.”

He claimed that he does not support or pay blood money for prisoners convicted of intentional murder, drug peddling, rape and other heinous crimes.

Source: Gulf News, Sajila Saseendran, April 24, 2018

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