FEATURED POST

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

Image
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…

Final appeal for Brit, 78, wrongfully jailed in Florida

Krishna ‘Kris’ Maharaj
Krishna ‘Kris’ Maharaj
An elderly British citizen has filed a final appeal against his wrongful conviction in Florida 30 years ago, which saw him sentenced to death.

Krishna ‘Kris’ Maharaj, a 78-year old British businessman, was arrested in the US in 1986 and sentenced to death. He has spent three decades in prison, despite compelling evidence of his innocence, collected by his lawyer at international human rights organization Reprieve. 

The US courts commuted his death sentence in 2002, but have dismissed subsequent evidence suggesting he was framed. 

Since Mr Maharaj’s original conviction, six people affiliated with a Colombian drug cartel have said they committed the murders for which he was sentenced to death. Mr Maharaj’s final appeal to the US federal courts was filed earlier this month, and asks for this new evidence to be heard.

Mr Maharaj and his MP, Conservative Sir Peter Bottomley, have asked the UK Government to submit a so-called ‘amicus’ briefing to the court, supporting Mr Maharaj’s request to be given the opportunity to demonstrate his innocence. 

However, the Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has declined to submit such a briefing. In a letter sent in December, the Foreign Office said: “The Minister does not think it is appropriate to do so on this occasion”, and did not give any further reasoning.

The decision appears to be at odds with previous UK actions in US legal cases. Three years ago, the Foreign Office commissioned four lawyers from an international law firm to intervene on behalf of oil giant BP, in litigation surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, because the case “implicates the rights of one of the United Kingdom’s largest companies”.

The appeal for Mr Maharaj is filed amid concerns for his wellbeing. Last month, he was hospitalised for several weeks after becoming seriously ill with a rare skin condition. Mr Maharaj is already confined to a wheelchair, after he contracted a similar illness in 2011.

Clive Stafford Smith, Reprieve’s founder and Mr Maharaj’s pro bono lawyer for 23 years, said: 

“We now have no fewer than six cartel associates saying they did the murder for which Kris Maharaj was originally sentenced to death. The terrible possibility is that the US federal court will not allow us a hearing, based on the bizarre laws that govern such applications. I hope we can persuade them, but the injustice Kris has faced for three decades is why he and I are both so upset that Boris Johnson refused to intervene on his behalf. After all, what is a British passport for?”

  • The Foreign Office's letter to Reprieve is available here
  • Further detail on Kris Maharaj’s case is available at the Reprieve website, here.

Source: Reprieve, February 14, 2017

⚑ | Report an error, an omission, a typo; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; submit a piece, a comment; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

New Hampshire: More than 50,000 anti-death penalty signatures delivered to Sununu

Texas: The accused Santa Fe shooter will never get the death penalty. Here’s why.

Texas executes Juan Castillo

Mary Jane Veloso: The woman the firing squad left behind

Five executed in Iran, two hanged in public

Collection of items from the career of Britain's most famous executioner discovered

What Indiana officials want to keep secret about executions

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

China: Appeal of nanny's death penalty sentence wraps up

Post Mortem – the execution of Edward Earl Johnson