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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 man gets probation after using ‘gay panic’ defense to explain killing his neighbor

Daniel Spencer
James Miller of Austin, Texas was found not guilty of manslaughter and murder by a jury after killing his neighbor, Daniel Spencer. After Miller used the “gay panic” defense, claiming Spencer made a pass at him, the jury found him guilty of criminally negligent homicide and sentenced him to 10 years of probation.

While a handful of states have outlawed the defense tactic and the American Bar Association has called on states to ban it, in Texas it is still legal to get away with murder by saying a gay man’s advances can justify killing him.

The judge was required under state law to honor the jury’s recommendation but also added on six months of jail time, 100 hours of community service, and restitution of $11,000 to the victim’s family. Miller will also have use a portable alcohol monitoring device for at least a year.

Miller and Spencer were drinking and playing music together shortly before the attack. Miller argued he reacted in self-defense but never claimed that Spencer intended to cause him bodily harm. Prosecutors argued during the case that blood evidence found on the scene disputed Miller’s claims.

“It was so uncharacteristic of Mr. Miller that for him to engage in this behavior clearly had to be an act of self-defense,” Miller’s defense attorney told the jury.

“We don’t know exactly what did happen in that house that night,” Prosecutor Matthew Foye told KXAN-TV after the verdict was handed down. “So that can be something that can be very difficult for juries to work through.”

“I have a huge hole in my heart. Something’s wrong in the world when you lose your child before you go,” the victim’s mother, Marsha Spencer, told the jury. “I’m tortured by the thought of how Daniel died and I’m tortured by the fact that he suffered and that he was alone when he died. It’s a loss that cuts deeply.”

The jury apparently didn’t care about the hole in her heart as much as they did the idea of a gay man supposedly making a pass at a straight man. To them, that’s deserving of death.

Source: LGBQT Nation, Bill Browning, April 27, 2018


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but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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