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"'Death penalty abolition has a way to go'," is the Deutsche Welle interview with Jan Erik Wetzel of Amnesty International.
The strongest argument against the death penalty seems to be that innocent people could end up being convicted - and ultimately killed - for crimes they didn't commit. For instance, in the case of Maryland, DNA evidence exonerated former death row inmate Kirk Bloodsworth who then was released from prison after eight years. Do you know of similar cases?
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, whether the person is innocent or guilty. If the person is guilty, after a fair trial, he or she should be given a prison sentence that is commensurate with the crime conducted. The death penalty is never applicable, because there should never be an end to hope for that particular prisoner.
We do know that since 1973 over 140 people have been exonerated in the US. However, only 18 of these have been exonerated due to DNA evidence showing and proving innocence. So DNA is not really the solution to all of this either. Quite often faulty witness statements, quite often police brutality [have] contributed to death sentences and unfair trials. So we think if these various mistakes want to be avoided, the death penalty needs to be abolished as such.
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 at 03:43 PM in Abolition, Activism, Capital Punishment, Death Penalty in Other Countries, Execution, Exoneration, International, Interview, Sentencing | Permalink | Comments (0)
Best-selling author Thomas Cahill writes, "Why do we keep executing people?" for CNN. Here's an extended excerpt from the beginning of this must-read:
Killing people by lethal injection will soon be as distant a memory as burning heretics at the stake and stoning adulterers -- at least throughout the civilized world. No country that employs the death penalty can be admitted to the European Union, and the practice dwindles daily.In addition to his best-selling histories, Cahill is the author of A Saint on Death Row, published in 2009. Earlier coverage of Saint begins at the link.
But despite the growing worldwide revulsion against this lethal form of punishment, Texas and a handful of other states continue to take their places among such paragons as North Korea, China, Yemen and Iran in the club of those who attempt to administer the death penalty as a form of "justice."
Indeed, Texas is way ahead of all other states in the administering of such justice. At the end of this month, under the leadership of Gov. Rick Perry, the state is expected -- if all appeals fail -- to celebrate its 500th judicial killing since our Supreme Court in 1976 reinstated the death penalty as a legitimate form of "justice," despite the fact that an earlier court had determined that the death penalty was "cruel and unusual punishment."
No one doubts that the woman who is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, Kimberly McCarthy, is guilty of the 1997 murder of her neighbor, a 71-year-old woman and a retired college professor. Although we know that upwards of 10% of all death row prisoners are later exonerated for the crimes for which they have been convicted, Kimberly McCarthy will not be one of them. So, why shouldn't we kill her?
For the same reason Warden R.F. Coleman gave to reporters on February 8, 1924, the day the official Texas Death House was inaugurated with the electrocution of five African-American men. Said Coleman then, "It just couldn't be done, boys. A warden can't be a warden and a killer, too. The penitentiary is a place to reform a man, not to kill him."
Warden Coleman resigned rather than pull the switch. Sadly, so many others have failed in the many years since then to follow his heroic example.
And let's not equivocate: Often, and in every age, doing the right thing requires heroism.
Earlier coverage of Kimberly McCarthy's case begins in the preceding post.
The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation posts, "Minister calls for ‘world without death penalty’."
Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter has highlighted Switzerland’s commitment to the abolition of capital punishment at the opening of the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty in Madrid.
“Switzerland aims to ensure that those countries which have not as yet abolished the death penalty at least place a moratorium on its use,” he said in a statement released by the foreign ministry.
In it, he added that capital punishment was incompatible with the values represented by Switzerland and had an impact on the country’s other obligations such as the prohibition of discrimination.
The death penalty was abolished from Swiss federal criminal law in 1942, but remained available in military criminal law until 1992.
Together with Spain, France and Norway, Switzerland is patron of the Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty which is hosting around 1,500 delegates from over 90 states in Madrid until Saturday.
"Former death row inmates fight capital punishment," is the AFP report, via the Sun of Malaysia.
Twelve years after leaving death row in Florida, Joaquin Martinez still cannot abide traditional lightbulbs.
"At the time we still had the electric chair and just like in the movies, the bulbs flickered and went out when they executed someone," said Martinez, who is visiting Madrid to join the fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty.
"I don't have any normal lightbulbs at home, just halogens," he said.
His hair impeccably brushed back, the well-dressed 41-year-old Spaniard was arrested in 1996 in Florida on suspicion of double murder before being found not guilty by the US justice system and freed in 2001.
"I still dream sometimes that I am a prisoner. I wake up with a shudder," he said in a presentation event ahead of the June 12-15 congress, organised by the French lobby group Ensemble Contre La Peine de Mort (Together Against the Death Penalty).
Organisers say they expect 1,500 people from 90 countries, including high-profile politicians such as French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, to gather for the congress.
The debate will be punctuated by testimony from people who were once condemned to death or the relatives of those now living on death row.
Related posts are in the international category index.
Technorati Tags: activism, capital punishment, death penalty, death penalty in other countries, Didier Burkhalter, Ensemble Contre La Peine de Mort, event, Fifth World Congress against the Death Penalty, international, Spain, Switzerland
Today's Allentown Morning Call publishes the OpEd, "Pennsylvania should abolish the death penalty. It's by Karen N. Berry, Judith A. Dexter, Alwyn Eades, and Sarah Snider; Amnesty International members.
Are you in favor of the death penalty? Why? Many people say we need it because the death penalty deters crime, but that is not true. In 2012, the National Research Council evaluated statistical studies only to conclude "that the studies do not provide evidence for or against the proposition that the death penalty affects homicide rates."
So if it does not deter crime, if it doesn't make us safer, why do we have the death penalty and why are we asking now? We ask now because the Pennsylvania Senate has created a task force to study the death penalty and to recommend changes to our judicial system.
In March, Maryland's legislature voted out the death penalty, substituting life in prison without the possibility of parole. Gov. Martin O'Malley cited both costs and deterrence after the vote. "Capital punishment is expensive and the overwhelming evidence tells us that it does not work as a deterrent," he said. Thus Maryland joined 17 other states to abolish the death penalty, and its world did not collapse.
We believe that if citizens of Pennsylvania knew the facts about capital punishment — that it does not deter crime and that it costs more than keeping offenders in jail for the rest of their lives — they would join us in opposing the death penalty. They would no longer wish to be part of the list of countries that actively use the death penalty; China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, North Korea are the only countries that use the death penalty at a rate comparable with the USA. Is our moral sense at the level of these countries?
Also from Pennsylvania, there is a new federal death sentence. "Jury: Death penalty for dealer," is the AP report, via the Cherry Hill Courier-Post.
A federal jury on Friday recommended the death penalty for a drug dealer convicted of murdering 12 people, including four children and two women who were relatives of an informant and were killed in a firebombing.
Kaboni Savage, 38, already was serving 30 years in prison for a drug trafficking conviction.
Jurors took less than two days to unanimously return 13 death sentences against Savage — one for each of the 12 murders and one for retaliating against witnesses.
Related posts are in the federal death penalty category index.
Monday, 03 June 2013 at 03:15 PM in Abolition, Capital Punishment, Cost, Death Penalty in Other Countries, Federal Death Penalty, International, OpEd, Sentencing, Specific Case | Permalink | Comments (0)
Technorati Tags: abolition, Allentown Morning Call, Alwyn Eades, capital punishment, cost, death penalty, federal death penalty, Judith A. Dexter, Kaboni Savage, Karen N. Berry, Maryland, OpEd, Pennsylvania, repeal, Sarah Snider, specific case
The Washington Post WorldViews blog posts, "An eye-opening map of which countries execute the most prisoners," by Caitlin Dewey.
Amnesty International’s latest report on capital punishment indicates that the world still executed roughly the same number of people, from roughly the same number of countries, as it did in 2011.
New in 2012, though, is a dramatic doubling of executions in Iraq and reversals of long-standing death penalty moratoriums in countries such as Japan and India.
First, the numbers: Twenty-one countries carried out executions in 2012, the same as 2011. Those countries — of which China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are the biggest offenders — executed at least 682 people, or two more than in 2011. That’s not including China, which is thought to execute far more prisoners than any other country. Some 58 countries also imposed 1,722 death sentences – just the sentence, not the actual execution – versus 63 countries and 1,923 sentences the year before.
To put those numbers in context, they’re all down from a decade ago, when more than 30 countries carried out executions. But in the short term, it’s hard to see a global trend in either direction — the number of executions and imposed sentences have both swung unpredictably, especially since 2005.
Earlier coverage of the 2012 Amnesty report is at the link.
The New York Times reports, "Amnesty International Reports on Death Penalty Trends," by Rick Gladstone.
At least four countries that had not used the death penalty in some time — India, Japan, Pakistan and Gambia — resumed doing so last year, the rights organization Amnesty International says in its annual compilation of capital punishment trends.
Amnesty, the London-based group that has made abolition of the death penalty one of its signature causes, also says the number of executions in Iraq nearly doubled in 2012 compared with a year earlier, which it characterized as “an alarming escalation.”
Nonetheless, its yearly review, released early Wednesday in London, said the overall shift away from death sentences and executions continued in 2012.
“In many parts of the world, executions are becoming a thing of the past, ” Salil Shetty, secretary general of the organization, said in a statement. Amnesty said only 21 countries were recorded as having carried out executions in 2012, the same as in 2011, but down from 28 countries a decade earlier.
"Amnesty: Progress in ending global death penalty," is the AP filing, via the Boston Herald.
Iraq executed almost twice as many people last year compared to the year before, while India and Pakistan resumed executions after abandoning the practice for years, global human rights group Amnesty International said Tuesday.
China still led the top five countries carrying out executions, the organization said, followed by Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States.
Despite setbacks in several countries, the group said it was encouraged by overall signs of progress in the global trend toward ending the death penalty. In the U.S., nine states carried out executions in 2012, compared to 13 in the previous year.
"The 2012 figures on the use of the death penalty confirm that the overall trend globally is towards abolition: Only one in 10 countries worldwide carried out death sentences," the report said.
"Report: China, U.S. in top 5 for executions worldwide," is by Laura Smith-Spark at CNN.
China, the United States and three Middle Eastern nations carried out the most executions last year, rights group Amnesty International said Wednesday, but a global trend toward ending the death penalty persisted.
There were at least 682 confirmed executions worldwide last year, two more than in 2011, according to the group.
China is believed to have executed several thousand people last year, Amnesty said, but government secrecy makes it impossible to confirm exact numbers.
"The lack of reliable data does not allow Amnesty International to publish credible figures for the use of the death penalty in the country," the rights group said. "However, available information strongly indicates that China carries out more executions than the rest of the world put together."
Iran carried out at least 314 executions last year, Iraq at least 129 and Saudi Arabia at least 79. In the United States, 43 people were executed across nine states. Sixth on the list was Yemen, with at least 28 executions.
According to the 60-page report, "Death Sentences and Executions in 2012," there were at least 1,722 newly-imposed death sentences in 58 countries last year, compared with 1,923 in 63 countries in 2011.
This meant that at least 23,386 people were under sentence of death worldwide at the end of 2012, it said.
AFP posts, "Execution-free world getting closer: Amnesty."
A total of 21 countries were recorded as carrying out executions in 2012 -- the same number as in 2011, but a sharp drop from 28 countries in 2003.
In 2012, at least 682 executions were known to have been carried out worldwide, two more than in 2011. At least 1,722 newly imposed death sentences in 58 countries could be confirmed, compared to 1,923 in 63 countries the year before.
But Amnesty stressed that its figures do not include the thousands of executions that it believes were carried out in China, where details are shrouded in secrecy.
The United States remains the only country in the Americas to carry out executions -- the total number, 43, was the same as in 2011, but only nine states executed in 2012, compared to 13 in 2011. Connecticut became the 17th abolitionist state in April, while a referendum on the abolition of the death penalty was narrowly defeated in California in November.
"Amnesty International report claims death penalty is declining worldwide," by Saeed Kamali Dehghan for the Guardian.
In 2012, only 21 countries were known to have carried out executions, the same as the year before. More than two-thirds of the world's countries –140 – are classified as nations that have either abandoned the death penalty or are no longer implementing it.
Amnesty's Salil Shetty writes, "Time to drop 'high-cost revenge'," at CNN. Here's the beginning:
“If the death penalty is not a deterrent, and it is not, and if the death penalty does not make us safer, and it does not, then it is only high-cost revenge.”
These words could easily have come from me or one of my colleagues at Amnesty International. We have after all been campaigning for abolition since the 1970s because we view capital punishment as the ultimate cruel and inhuman form of punishment.
But the quote actually comes from Charles M. Harris – a senior judge in Florida, one of only nine states in the United States to carry out death sentences in 2012.
Thankfully, Harris’s view is far from unique. Today, Amnesty International is releasing its annual report on death penalty statistics across the globe. Once again, we have seen the world move, slowly but surely, closer to becoming death penalty-free. Only 21 countries were recorded as having carried out executions last year, down from 28 a decade ago.
A longer perspective makes the change even more striking. When we first started campaigning for abolition of the death penalty 35 years ago, the world’s 16 abolitionist countries were a clear minority. Now, 97 countries have completely abolished the death penalty in law, while 140 in total are de facto death penalty free.
That's the title of a news release issued by the UN News Service. Here's the full text:
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today reiterated his call for a global moratorium on applying the death penalty, stressing the United Nations’ long history of opposing the practice and the growing momentum among the international community to permanently end it.
“A global moratorium is a crucial stepping stone towards full worldwide abolition,” Mr. Ban said in a message delivered by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang.
“Capital punishment is inconsistent with the mission of the United Nations to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and the dignity and worth of the human person,” Ms. Kang read, during an event at the Human Rights Council in Geneva organized by the International Commission against the Death Penalty, an independent body opposed to capital punishment.
The UN General Assembly first voted on a moratorium in 2007, and again in December 2012 with the support of 111 countries, 41 against and 34 abstentions. The resolution called for a progressive restriction on the use of capital punishment and eliminating it entirely for felons below the age of 18 and pregnant women.
Although not legally binding, the UN moratorium on executions carries moral and political weight.
“The United Nations system has long advocated the abolition of the death penalty. International and hybrid tribunals supported by the UN do not provide for capital punishment, nor does the International Criminal Court,” Mr. Ban’s message noted.
Approximately150 countries have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it, but Mr. Ban noted that some recently reinstated the practice.
Thousands of people are executed each year, “often in violation of international standards, such as the right to fair trial and due process,” Mr. Ban said.
He added that the death penalty is still used for a wide range of crimes that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” and based on information that is not transparent.
In addition, sometimes “wrongful convictions and miscarriages of justice” can occur in well-functioning legal systems that sentence and execute persons who have been ultimately proven innocent, Mr. Ban said.
Technorati Tags: abolition, Ban Ki-moon, capital punishment, death penalty, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, moratorium, repeal, Secretary-General, UN, United Nations, United Nations General Assembly
"Stepping Back From Capital Punishment," is the title of an OpEd published in the New York Times. It's written by Mohammed Bedjaoui, Ruth Dreifuss, and Federico Mayor. Bedjaoui is a former judge at the International Court of Justice; Dreifuss, a former president of the Swiss Confederation; and, Mayor a former minister of education and science of Spain. They are members of the International Commission against the Death Penalty.
Yet in the first month of 2013, Saudi Arabia beheaded nine people. In recent weeks, Yemen has sentenced a juvenile offender to death, fueling hunger strikes by scores of imprisoned children. Iran has reportedly begun imposing death sentences for petty criminals accused of robbery.
Such developments make for grim reading. However, we at the International Commission against the Death Penalty — an independent body opposed to capital punishment in all cases — remain hopeful. It is clear that the world is becoming an increasingly lonely place for states that practice executions.
The United Nations call for a moratorium on executions is underpinned by a global trend toward abolition that has dramatically gathered pace in recent years. One hundred and five countries have repealed capital punishment in their laws and others no longer carry out executions.
According to the United Nations, over 150 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice.
Related posts are in the international index.
Technorati Tags: International Commission against the Death Penalty, abolition, capital punishment, death penalty, Federico Mayor, General Assembly, international, Mohammed Bedjaoui, New York Times, OpEd, repeal, Ruth Dreifuss, UN, United Nations
A record 110 countries on Monday backed a resolution voted every two years at a UN General Assembly committee calling for the abolition of the death penalty.
The vote tears apart traditional alliances at the United Nations. The United States, Japan, China, Iran, India, North Korea, Syria and Zimbabwe were among 39 countries to oppose the non-binding resolution in the assembly's rights committee. Thirty-six countries abstained.
Israel voted against its strong US-ally to join European Union nations, Australia, Brazil and South Africa among major countries backing the motion
Norway, which played a leading role campaigning for the resolution, said on its Twitter account that the increased support was a "great result".
At the last vote in 2010, 107 countries backed the resolution.
France's new Socialist government has launched a campaign with other abolitionist states to get the full General Assembly to pass a resolution in December calling for a death penalty moratorium. Though such a resolution would be non-binding, diplomats say it would increase moral pressure.
A world congress against the death penalty is to be held in Madrid in June.
According to the United Nations, about 150 countries have either abolished capital punishment or have instituted a moratorium.
"Executions increasingly viewed as torture: U.N. investigator," is the Reuters report written by Louis Charbonneau, via the Chicago Tribune.
Countries around the world are increasingly viewing capital punishment as a form of torture because it inflicts severe mental and physical pain on those sentenced to death, a U.N. torture investigator said on Tuesday.
Traditionally, countries have considered the legality of capital punishment with respect to the right to life guaranteed under international law, U.N. special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez told the U.N. General Assembly's human rights committee.
"My analysis of regional and national jurisprudence identifies a momentum towards redefining the legality of capital punishment," Mendez said.
"States need to re-examine their procedures under international law because the ability of states to impose and carry out the death penalty is diminishing as these practices are increasingly viewed to constitute torture," he said.
He said that there was no such thing as a pain-free form of execution, which makes it difficult to reject the idea that it is a form of torture.
"Methods of execution cannot be discounted as being completely painless," he told reporters after addressing the General Assembly's Third Committee.
In his report to the 193-nation General Assembly, Mendez said that several U.N. expert panels have urged the United States to review its execution methods, including lethal injection, to prevent extreme pain and suffering.
"Following a number of executions in the United States, it has recently become apparent that the (lethal injection) regimen, as currently administered, does not work as efficiently as intended," Mendez's report said.
"Some prisoners take many minutes to die and others become very distressed," he said. "New studies conclude that even if lethal injection is administered without technical error, those executed may experience suffocation, and therefore the conventional view of lethal injection as a peaceful and painless death is questionable."
Technorati Tags: capital punishment, death penalty, execution, international, Juan Mendez, lethal injection, U.N. General Assembly, U.N. special rapporteur on torture, UN human rights committee, United Nations
That's the title of an AP report, via USA Today.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has called for the death penalty to be abolished.
Ban told a panel on the issue convened Tuesday by the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights: "The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process."
Since the General Assembly endorsed a call for a death penalty moratorium in 2007, several nations have abolished the death penalty, including Argentina, Burundi, Gabon, Latvia, Togo and Uzbekistan. The U.N. says 150 nations have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it.
Ban said he was especially concerned that the death penalty is still used for juvenile offenders, and 32 nations use it for drug-related offenses.
The U.N. News Centre issued, "Secretary-General calls on States to abolish death penalty."
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Member States which use the death penalty to abolish this practice, stressing that the right to life lies at the heart of international human rights law.
“The taking of life is too absolute, too irreversible, for one human being to inflict on another, even when backed by legal process,” Mr. Ban told a panel organized by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on ‘Moving away from the death penalty – Lessons from national experiences’ at UN Headquarters in New York.
“Where the death penalty persists, conditions for those awaiting execution are often horrifying, leading to aggravated suffering,” he added.
In 2007, the General Assembly endorsed a call for a worldwide moratorium of the death penalty. Since then, the practice has been abolished by countries like Argentina, Burundi, Gabon, Latvia, Togo and Uzbekistan. More than 150 States have either abolished the death penalty or do not practice it.
However, Mr. Ban noted, the death penalty is still used for a wide range of crimes in various countries. In particular, he expressed concern that 32 States retain the death penalty for drug-related offences, and its use on juvenile offenders.
“I am also very concerned that some countries still allow juvenile offenders under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged offence to be sentenced to death and executed,” Mr. Ban said. “The call by the General Assembly for a global moratorium is a crucial stepping stone in the natural progression towards a full worldwide abolition of the death penalty.”
The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has also repeatedly called for the universal abolition of the death penalty, citing a host of reasons ranging from the fundamental right to life to the possibility of judicial errors.
In addition, Mr. Ban’s Guidance Note of 2008 on the UN Approach to Rule of Law Assistance stated that the UN will not establish or directly participate in any tribunal that allows for capital punishment.
Technorati Tags: abolition, Ban Ki-moon, capital punishment, death penalty, General Assembly, international, Navi Pillay, news release, Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN, United Nations
Death Sentences and Executions 2011 is the annual report issued by Amnesty International.
At least 20 countries were known to have carried out executions in 2011. Even including newly-independent South Sudan, this is a reduction from 2010, when 23 countries were reported to have implemented death sentences, and shows a steep decline against the figure recorded a decade ago, when 31 countries were known to have carried out executions.
At least 676 executions were known to have been carried out worldwide in 2011, an increase on the 2010 figure of at least 527 executions worldwide. The increase is largely due to a significant increase in judicial killings in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. However, the 676 figure does not include the thousands of people who were believed to have been executed in China in 2011.
CBS News posts, "Amnesty: US ranks 5th on global execution scale."
The United States was the only Western democracy that executed prisoners last year, even as an increasing number of U.S. states are moving to abolish the death penalty, Amnesty International announced Monday.
America's 43 executions in 2011 ranked it fifth in the world in capital punishment, the rights group said in its annual review of worldwide death penalty trends. U.S. executions were down from 46 a year earlier.
"If you look at the company we're in globally, it's not the company we want to be in: China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq," Suzanne Nossel, executive director of Amnesty International USA, told The Associated Press.
The United States seems deeply divided on the issue.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry was cheered at a Republican presidential candidates' debate last September when he defended his signature on 234 execution warrants over more than 10 years as being the "ultimate justice."
Just weeks later, young people rallied in person and online to protest the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia for the 1991 murder of a police officer. In the intervening years, key witnesses for the prosecution had recanted or changed their stories.
"I think the debate on the issue may be nearing a tipping point in this country," Nossel said. "I think we're seeing momentum at the state level, in the direction of waning support for the death penalty."
Illinois banned the death penalty last year, and Oregon adopted a moratorium on executions.
"Amnesty: Mideast executions boost 2011 global toll," is the AP coverage of the report. It's written by Peter James Spielmann, via the Boston Globe.
A surge of executions last year in Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Yemen pushed the worldwide total higher than the year before, the global anti-death penalty group Amnesty International announced Monday.
The United States remains near the top of the global list of nations carrying out executions, ranked fifth.
Although the global rate of executions has declined by about a third in the past decade, to 676 documented worldwide in 2011, some 18,750 people remained on death row at the end of the year in 20 nations, Amnesty International said in its annual review of worldwide trends.
"We do not believe that governments should be in the business of executing citizens. That's an inappropriate role for the government to play, regardless of the circumstances," Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, told The Associated Press.
Various countries subject a wide array of crimes to capital punishment, including adultery, sodomy and religious offenses such as apostasy or "treason against God" in Iran, blasphemy in Pakistan, "sorcery" in Saudi Arabia, trafficking in human bones in the Republic of Congo, and economic crimes in China including selling fake drugs or tainted foods or soliciting deceptive organ transplantation.
China executes thousands of people annually, many more than the rest of the world put together. Figures are a state secret, Amnesty International said, and it has stopped compiling them from public sources because those numbers lead to underreporting and a gross underestimate of the true total.
"Executions jump in 2011, driven by Middle East: Amnesty," from Reuters by Adrian Croft. It's via the Chicago Tribune.
The number of executions carried out around the world jumped last year, largely due to a surge in use of the death penalty in Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International said on Tuesday.
The rights group said at least 676 people were executed in 20 countries in 2011 compared with 527 executions in 23 countries in 2010, a 28 percent increase.
Confirmed executions in the Middle East rose by almost 50 percent last year to 558, it said in an annual report on the death penalty.
Methods of execution used around the world included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting.
However, Amnesty said China executed more people than the rest of the world put together. Data on the death penalty in China is a state secret and Amnesty International no longer publishes a figure for Chinese executions, but it said they were in the thousands.
Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary-general, said that when Amnesty was launched in 1961 only nine countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes, whereas last year only 20 countries carried out executions.
"It's a very important success story," he told Reuters, adding that the downside was that "a few countries continue to practice it in large numbers."
At least 1,923 people are known to have been sentenced to death in 63 countries in 2011, down from 2,024 in 2010, Amnesty's report said. At least 18,750 people were under sentence of death worldwide at the end of 2011, including 8,300 in Pakistan, it said.
"Map: Nations that used the death penalty last year," at the Los Angeles Times.
Most countries do not put criminals to death. Only 20 out of 198 carried out executions last year. That number has dropped by more than a third over the past decade. Many nations have abolished the death penalty and more are abolitionist in practice.
"We are determined that we will see the day when the death penalty is consigned to history," said Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty International.
At least 676 people were executed across the globe last year for crimes including sorcery, sodomy and murder, according to a new annual report from the group. Executions rose steeply in the Middle East and North Africa, up almost 50% compared to the previous year.
The United States was the only Western country to carry out an execution last year, though death sentences are rarer than a decade ago. Sixteen states have now abolished capital punishment, most recently Illinois, where a lengthy campaign drew attention to errors in the criminal justice system.
Amnesty posted, "‘Don’t let those who kill turn us into murderers’." For anyone who does not know Renny Cushing's story, it's a must-read.
One warm June evening in 1988, Robert Cushing and his wife Marie were at home watching a basketball game on TV, when they were interrupted by a knock.
As the retired New Hampshire school teacher answered the front door of the house where he and Marie had raised their seven children, two shots rang out, ripping his chest apart.
He died instantly in front of his wife.
Later that night, a police officer broke the news of his father’s murder to then 34-year-old Renny Cushing, who had visited his parents less than an hour before the shooting.
“For me, at that moment, thinking about what you do in the aftermath of murder stopped being an intellectual exercise and became part of my life,” says Renny Cushing, speaking to Amnesty International from the house where his father was murdered. Renny now lives there with his wife and three daughters.
For some, the instinct after losing a loved one to murder might be to want to see the perpetrators executed.
But since his father's death, Renny Cushing has become a leading voice against the death penalty, travelling throughout the USA. and Asia speaking with and on behalf of victims who oppose capital punishment.
AIUSA also posted, "The Death Penalty In 2011: Three Things You Should Know," by Brian Evans.
Every year around this time, Amnesty International releases its annual survey of capital punishment worldwide.
As in previous years, the report – Death Sentences and Execution 2011 – shows that support for executions continued to diminish, and that the U.S. is in the wrong company but moving in the right direction. There are three main takeaways from this years report.
1. Globally, the use of the death penalty remained in decline. At the end of 2011 there were 140 countries considered abolitionist in law or practice (it’s now 141 with the addition of Mongolia), while only 20 countries were known to have put prisoners to death. Only in the tumultuous Middle East was there an increase in executions.
2. The United States stayed in its dubiously bad place on this fundamental human rights issue. The U.S. was the only country in the Western hemisphere or the G8 to kill its prisoners, and was responsible for the fifth most known executions in the world, behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. (As an independent country, Texas would have ranked 7th, between North Korea and Somalia, with its 13 executions in 2011.)
3. On the other hand, there were unmistakable signs of a substantially reduced enthusiasm for the death penalty in the U.S. In March, Illinois become the 16th state to abolish the death penalty, and in November, Oregon’s Governor declared a moratorium on executions. Nationwide, executions were down slightly (43 compared to 46 in 2010), and death sentences were way down (78 compared to 104 in 2010 and 158 on 2001). The execution of Troy Davis in September was accompanied by an unprecedented outpouring of opposition, and a Gallup poll showed support for the death penalty at its lowest ebb since 1972.
The weekly magazine's current in-deptah briefing is, "The death penalty in decline."
How many countries have the death penalty?
Capital punishment laws are on the books in 91 countries, but only 23 of them carried out any executions last year. The U.S. executed 46 people last year, and 37 so far this year — more than any other country, except for the dictatorships of China, North Korea, Iran, and Yemen. In most parts of the modern world, the practice appears to be in steep decline. Since 1976, a total of 123 countries have effectively abolished the death penalty as a barbaric legacy of the past. All signs point to an unmistakable downward trend, says Mario Marazziti, co-founder of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. "There is worldwide growth of a new moral standard of decency and of respect for human rights," he said, "even the rights and lives of those who may have committed severe crimes."
Is that trend likely to extend to the U.S.?
It already has, in parts of the country. Illinois scrapped the death penalty in March of this year, and New Jersey did so in 2007. Lawmakers in California, Connecticut, Florida, Ohio, and Maryland introduced legislation this year to abolish the death penalty in those states. A recent Gallup poll found that the U.S. public's approval of the death penalty had dropped by 19 percentage points over the past 17 years, and currently stands at 61 percent, the lowest level since 1972. And although 34 states retain capital punishment laws, only 11 states executed prisoners last year, down from 20 in 1999. In effect, the death penalty has become a regional practice: Texas, Oklahoma, and Virginia alone account for more than half of U.S.
A warden's change of heart
Three times in his 22-year career in Florida's corrections system, warden Ron McAndrew presided over an execution in the electric chair. Each time, his private doubts grew. During the third execution he witnessed, the condemned prisoner's head burst into flames, and McAndrew had to give the order to continue. "This is wrong," he decided. McAndrew, now a prison consultant, joined a small group of ex-wardens turned death penalty abolitionists, including Jeanne Woodford of San Quentin in California and Donald Cabana of Parchman Penitentiary in Mississippi. These wardens say that participating in the planned, cold-blooded killing of human beings has haunted them, and that it inflicts lasting trauma on corrections officers. "Many colleagues turned to drugs and alcohol from the pain of knowing a man died at their hands,'' McAndrew said. "The state dishonors us by putting us in this situation. This is premeditated, carefully thought-out ceremonial killing." He advocates "an alternative that doesn't lower us to the level of the killer: permanent imprisonment.''
Coverage of the statement on capital punishment by former wardens is at the link; Ron McAndrew has spoken of the trauma prison staff suffer.
Wednesday, 26 October 2011 at 03:06 PM in Abolition, Capital Punishment, Death Penalty in Other Countries, Execution, Geographic Disparity, Incarceration, International, Journalism, Sentencing, State Legislation | Permalink | Comments (0)
Technorati Tags: abolition, California, capital punishment, Connecticut, Danald Cabana, death penalty, Gallup poll, Illinois, Jeanne Woodford, Mario Marazziti, Maryland, Mississippi, Oklahoma, public opinion polling, Ron McAndrew, San Quentin, sentencing, Texas, Virginia, World Coalition Against the Death Penalty
That's the title of commentary posted by Christian Prosl, Austria's ambassador to the United States. It's in the Hill, the DC political paper. LINK
It is generally assumed the United States and the European Union share the same values. No important speech on both sides of the Atlantic can do without a reference to those common values such as democracy, adherence to the rule of law and human rights. Therefore, it is even more distressing that capital punishment continues to be imposed in the United States. Since its reintroduction in 1976, more than 1,200 people have been executed. According to opinion polls the mainstream of Americans still favors the death penalty. Yet, Europeans — together with a majority of states around the world — have abolished it.
For us, the death penalty is too inhuman and degrading a punishment for any human being. It has been proven over and over again that the death penalty does not make a society more secure, nor does it ensure heinous crimes are not committed. Moreover, as erring is human, the number of innocent persons having been executed or falsely sentenced to death is truly substantial. In the U.S. alone — despite its elaborate judicial system — more than 90 persons have been cleared of all charges after having received initial death sentences.
Europeans believe the elimination of the death penalty is fundamental to the protection of human dignity. Human dignity is the core value of the Western, Judeo-Christian civilization with its humanistic tradition, which we are proud of on both sides of the Atlantic. For Christians, the abolishment of the death penalty is a response to the divine commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” Capital punishment is not only appalling and inhuman, but also reflects a thinking of the past.
The death penalty is not a necessity; favoring it is an attitude. Attitudes can be changed through education and leadership. We have seen this with regard to slavery, racism and anti-Semitism. But real leadership takes courageous persons. Fundamental values have to do with life and death. We should not take these issues lightly.
Related posts are in the international index.
Technorati Tags: abolition, Austria, capital punishment, Christian Prosl, consular notification, death penalty, EU, European Union, human rights, international, international law, OpEd, repeal, treaty, World Court
Today's Orlando Sentinel carries the editorial, "Commission can reduce wrongful convictions with legislative support."
Sprinkled throughout the U.S. Constitution is the notion that accused criminals are to be treated fairly and justly.
A high ideal in theory, but too often dogged by judicial breakdowns in practice. When that happens, the system locks up someone like James Bain. He received a life sentence for the 1974 rape of a 9-year-old Lake Wales boy. Only he didn't do the crime. After serving 35 years, Mr. Bain finally tasted freedom in December after DNA testing exonerated him.
Tragically, Mr. Bain's plight isn't uncommon in Florida. At long last, however, it appears the state intends to do more to prevent such miscarriages of justice than simply hoping truth will win the day. Armed with $200,000 in legislative start-up money, the state Supreme Court appears poised to create an innocence commission to examine wrongful convictions and recommend reforms.
It's a badly needed backstop, given that largely because of DNA evidence, 11 people who wrongly were robbed of their liberty were exonerated in recent years. Still, the commission's effectiveness depends on legislators' commitment to funding and to adopting its recommendations.
The push for a state innocence commission came in December from a group of lawyers and former state Supreme Court justices. Echoing a 2006 report by the American Bar Association's Florida Death Penalty Assessment Team, they petitioned the state Supreme Court to establish a panel modeled after a court-ordered commission of legal experts, police and victim advocates in North Carolina.
Florida has a long history of state-sanctioned commissions making recommendations that go nowhere. Given the Innocence Project of Florida reports that DNA testing has exonerated 248 U.S. citizens — including 17 on death row — since 1992, the Legislature cannot let any viable reforms that come from the commission collect dust.
"This too shall eventually pass," is the title of an editorial in Arkansas' Clay County Democrat.
Most all the executions in the world last year occurred in only four nations -- China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United States. China had by far the most executions, although no official number is reported -- it no doubt is in the thousands. The United States ranked fifth in the world with 52, behind China, Iran 388, Iraq 120 and Saudi Arabia 69.
The number of executions in the United States went up in 2010 from 37 in 2008 and 42 in 2007. Almost half of the executions in this country in 2010, a total of 24, occurred in Texas.
As Newsweek writer Anna Quindlen said of the capital punishment totals worldwide, "you are known by the company you keep."
During the last three decades, the number of nations outlawing the death penalty has risen from 16 to 137. No European nation still retains the death penalty.
There are so many reasons to be opposed to the death penalty but, in our view, none is as compelling as to compare the list of nations that keep it to those who don't.
Cecil Bothwell writes, "Time for state to end executions for mentally ill," for the Asheville Citizen-Times about legislation being considered in North Carolina. Bothwell is a member of the Asheville City Council.
It's perfectly clear that people suffering from such debilities have no understanding of their actions, much less potential repercussions.
If the purpose of our penal system is to discourage criminal behavior, that purpose cannot be served by threatening execution of those who can't connect cause and effect, who imagine themselves to be immortal, who believe they are acting on directions from God or aliens, who entertain bizarre paranoid fantasies or who experience a wide range of other psychotic derangements.
A humane society should be able to pass a law that serves justice, removes murderers from society, but recognizes that they were not acting with their full faculties.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bill McClellan writes, "Life term shouldn't end murder story."
Brian Walters came to court on his 30th birthday Tuesday to plead guilty to the rape and murder of Nancy Miller in 2008. He received a life sentence, which could be considered a present of sorts because St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch had earlier announced his intention to seek the death penalty, and McCulloch is not normally a man who changes his mind about these things.
He changed his mind in this case after the victim's family agreed to a life sentence — a decision I believe Miller would have endorsed — and because of the role that Walters' mother played in the investigation. She brought her son to the crime scene, and then she urged him to confess.
The column details Walter's plea for assistance and counseling.
The story begged for a response. Why had the Department of Corrections not offered Walters the treatment he himself had said he needed? Why had the 2003 report been completely ignored?
The Missouri Legislature announced that its Joint Committee on Corrections would look into the affair. The hearings were a farce. The legislators were absolutely sympathetic with DOC Director Larry Crawford. "I hate that this happened, but I think you guys did the best that you could," said Rep. Van Kelly, R-Norwood.
Nobody mentioned that Missouri statutes say, "The director shall have education, training and experience in correctional management." Crawford was a high school graduate with no experience or training in correctional management. He was a former legislator who been appointed to the job when he was term-limited out of office in 2005. No wonder the legislators were so gentle.
It was no better when a real corrections professional appeared. Steve Long, who was then chairman of the Board of Probation and Parole, said all this was so confidential that he could not even confirm or deny that Walters ever had the conversations with the counselor and parole officer.
So that was that. Nobody ever found out why the report was ignored, which means we don't know if the problems have been corrected, which means we can't be sure a similar thing won't happen again — that the DOC will release another human time bomb, ready to explode, into the community.
Nancy Miller was a kind person, and I believe she would have approved of McCulloch's decision to forgo the death penalty. But she was also a reporter, and I'm convinced she would say that Tuesday's sentencing should not be the end of this particular story.
Thursday, 03 June 2010 at 02:11 PM in Abolition, Capital Punishment, Column, Death Penalty in Other Countries, Editorial, Incarceration, Innocence, Journalism, OpEd, Sentencing, Victims' Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Technorati Tags: abolition, Brian Walters, capital punishment, Clay County Democrat, death penalty, editorial, exoneration, Florida, Florida Innocence Commission, HB 137, House Bill 137, innocence, James Bain, mental illness, Missouri, Nancy Miller, North Carolina, OpEd, Orlando Sentinel, re-entry, repeal, SB 309, Senate Bill 309, sentencing, state legislation
That's the title of an editorial in today's Houston Chronicle. The subtitle is, "If Texas were a nation, it would be the world’s seventh most prolific executioner."
Last week’s headlines on stories reporting an Amnesty International study of global use of the death penalty in 2009 focused on the world’s top executioner.
The People’s Republic of China put at least 1,718 people to death, more than the rest of the world combined. The Chinese government treats information about the number of people it kills as a state secret whose divulgence is itself a criminal offense. There are 68 different crimes punishable by the death penalty in China, some of them nonviolent offenses.
And then there is the fifth most prolific user of state-sanctioned killing: the United States, with 52 executions in 2009. No other country in the Americas put a prisoner to death in that period.
Of the total executed in the U.S., 24 occurred in Texas, four times that of the closest competitor, Alabama. Only 10 of the 50 states carried out the death penalty last year. If Texas were an independent nation, we would be the seventh-largest practitioner of capital punishment, just a smidgen behind Yemen, a failed state with a medieval judicial system.
Last year nine inmates on American death rows were exonerated and freed after spending a total of 121 years there, proof that even vaunted U.S. justice makes potentially fatal mistakes.
If nations — and their judicial systems — are known by the company they keep, the U.S. and Texas remain in a very sleazy clique that continues to impose the death penalty on its citizens.
Technorati Tags: AI, AIUSA, Amnesty, Amnesty International, capital punishment, China, death penalty, death row, death sentence, Death Sentences and Executions 2009, editorial, execution, Houston Chronicle, international, lethal injection, report, sentencing, Texas, United States, Yemen
The Washington Post columnist writes, "Texas posts strong showing in death-penalty tourney," at the Post Partisan blog. Here's an extended excerpt:
Texas didn’t quite make the Final Four this year. It was edged out by China, Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, which, as luck would have it, all executed more people in 2009 than the Lone Star State. Still, Texas accounted for nearly half of America’s executions, which is not nothing and which, given the pluck and determination of its political leaders, can be bettered. China, alas, shows no signs of softening.
Of course, Texas is handicapped by a cumbersome judicial system – all those appeals, all those misguided lawyers – whereas in China, it’s much quicker. Sometimes the trial is skipped entirely. The folks at Amnesty International, who this week issued their annual report on capital punishment, condemn such practices, but those people are notoriously liberal – maybe worse, if you know what I mean. They say China last year executed “thousands” of people.
Far behind the pack is Europe, where capital punishment is banned in all but one country: Belarus, a fetid place that is hardly ever featured in any of the good travel magazines. South America, too, is a whole continent -- mountains and deserts and all -- without capital punishment. Europe and South America say they feel safe anyway. I suppose the Texas school authorities will delete this fact from all textbooks.
In all fairness, Texas is not the only state that contributed to America’s total of 52 executed. Virginia, for one, has pulled its weight over the years, and isn’t resting on its laurels. Last month it electrocuted a convicted murderer, and another execution is scheduled for next month. The death penalty has worked wonders as a deterrent measure in Virginia -- with the occasional exception of campus massacres, Pentagon shootings and ordinary crimes -- as it has in Texas. The Lone Star State’s murder rate is about the same as the nation as a whole, but inexplicably more than double those of some states and even higher than New York’s.
To its credit, Texas isn’t hampered by statistics nor logic from joining Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other advanced states in the execution of the deserving and -- look, that’s why they put erasers on pencils -- the undeserving.
The AI report is noted here.
Technorati Tags: AI, AIUSA, Amnesty, Amnesty International, blog, capital punishment, China, death penalty, death row, death sentence, Death Sentences and Executions 2009, execution, international, Iran, lethal injection, Post Partisan, report, Richard Cohen, sentencing, Texas, United States, Washington Post
The press release announcing the report is, "Amnesty International Challenges China's Continued Secrecy in Death Penalty Executions. Texas is first in executions in the U.S.; 7th in the world."
In a new report, Death Sentences and Executions in 2009, released today, Amnesty International challenged the Chinese authorities to reveal how many people they execute and sentence to death annually.
The new report reveals that 714 people were executed in 18 countries, and 2001 people were sentenced to death in 56 countries in 2009. However, it does not include the thousands of executions that were likely to have taken place in China, where information on the death penalty remains a state secret.
In a challenge to China's lack of transparency, Amnesty International has decided not to publish its own minimum figures for Chinese executions and death sentences in 2009. Estimates based on the publicly available information grossly under-represent the actual number the state killed or sentenced to death.
"The death penalty is cruel and degrading, and an affront to human dignity," said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International's Interim Secretary General. "The Chinese authorities claim that fewer executions are taking place. If this is true, why won’t they tell the world how many people the state put to death?"
Amnesty International's research shows that nations that still carry out executions are the exception rather than the rule. In addition to China, the worst offending nations were Iran with at least 388 executions, Iraq with at least 120, Saudi Arabia with at least 69 and the United States with 52.
In the United States, Texas with 24 executions, is the worst offender. It actually ranks 7th in the world trailing only the rest of the United States, and the governments of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and China. Texas has already executed four men in 2010, and another, Franklin Alix, is scheduled to be put to death on the evening of March 30.
The past year saw capital punishment applied extensively to send political messages, to silence opponents or to promote political agendas in China, Iran and Sudan, according to Amnesty International's report.
Selected news coverage includes the New York Times articles, "China Said to Execute Thousands in ’09," by Mark McDonald.
Amnesty said there were “thousands” of Chinese executions in 2009 — the precise number is considered a state secret — and the rights group called on Beijing to divulge how many it carries out.
The report said that at least 714 people were executed in 17 other countries, led by Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Methods of execution included beheading, stoning, electrocution, hanging, firing squads and lethal injection.
Amnesty said in its report last year that China had executed at least 1,718 people in 2008, nearly three-fourths of the 2,390 executions worldwide that year.
“The Chinese authorities claim that fewer executions are taking place,” said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty’s interim secretary general. “If this is true, why won’t they tell the world how many people the state put to death?”
Although admittedly incomplete, the figures from Amnesty are widely accepted. The State Department, for example, has cited the group’s findings in its reports on human rights.
The United States was the only country in the Americas to execute anyone in 2009, according to the report, which said the 52 executions constituted the nation’s highest total in three years. Nearly half the executions, 24, came in Texas, while New Mexico officially banned the death penalty.
AFP posted, "Amnesty slams China in death penalty report," by Robin Millard, via Google News.
The report said that at least 714 people were executed in 18 countries in 2009, while at least 2,001 people were sentenced to death in 56 states.
Besides China, the countries that executed the most people last year were Iran (at least 388); Iraq (at least 120); Saudi Arabia (at least 69); and the United States (52).
Burundi and Togo abolished the death penalty for all crimes, taking to 95 the number of countries to have done this by the end of 2009.
Nine further countries have abolished it for ordinary crimes.
Some 35 countries retain the death penalty but are considered abolitionist in practice as they have not executed anyone in the past 10 years.
That leaves 58 countries that retain the sentence for ordinary crimes.
Kate Allen's column in the Guardian is, "How many does China execute?"
Related posts are in the international index.
Technorati Tags: abolition, AI, AIUSA, Amnesty, Amnesty International, capital punishment, China, death penalty, death row, death sentence, Death Sentences and Executions 2009, execution, international, Iran, lethal injection, report, sentencing, Texas, United States
"Time for America to move past capital punishment," is the editorial in today's Aurora Sentinel in Colorado.
How much more ghastly will the stories of torture in the Ohio execution chamber have to become before the federal government steps in to protect that state from itself?
It doesn’t appear to be enough that Ohio prison officials spent two hours fruitlessly digging in a convict’s arms for a vein last month to inject lethal drugs and execute the man. The convict, Romell Broom, was convicted of raping and stabbing to death a 14-year-old girl in 1984.
Even for those who believe that such heinous criminals deserve to die, our society becomes dangerously base if we promote these kinds of deaths.
Now, Ohio officials are looking at taking this grisly reprise even further. Officials there yesterday said they would investigate a way to inject the lethal drugs directly into the convict’s bones to reach bone marrow, in case a usable vein isn’t found by executioners.
This sordid plan is no nightmare from a Hollywood slasher movie, it’s what government officials are cooking up to prevent another execution disruption like the one that halted the lethal injection in Ohio last month.
Jabbing a needle into a bone to deliver any kind of drug is a notoriously painful procedure. To inflict that kind of pain to deliver the death knell to criminals goes far, far beyond implementing justice and brings the government into the business of revenge killings. State and federal law requires we treat animals for slaughter better than this. It doesn’t matter how revolting or aggravating a crime is, we should never permit this kind of torture of any human.
Now is the time for America move beyond such barbarism.
The United Nations and others have exhaustively studied the issue for more than 40 years. The studies show that countries that execute criminals don’t have any better capital crime rate than those who lock up the criminals for good.
The United States is the last modern society that doesn’t admit that the death penalty only makes for revenge, not justice, and that it’s all too easy to kill innocent people. The few who continue to mete out death are countries like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, Cuba and North Korea. Surely we have progressed further than those societies and are ready to join the ranks of Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and even Russia.
The Tampa Tribune carries the editorial, "Death penalty reforms needed."
Indeed, men who rape and murder children make the case for the death penalty. There are some crimes that are so egregious, so malevolent that state-approved execution – retributive justice – is not only understandable, but necessary.
Think of Danny Rolling, executed by lethal injection three years ago for the 1990 murders of five students in Gainesville. Or triple murderer Oba Chandler, who sits on death row for the 1989 murders of an Ohio mother and her teenage daughters.
Or serial killer Oscar Ray Bolin, who viciously killed three women 23 years ago and, after nine trials and eight death sentences, continues to plague the system with postconviction appeals.
The legacy of men like these hurts the cause of those who would change the state's system of capital punishment or do away with the death penalty altogether.
And it's in large part why lawmakers tend to shun reform efforts meant to assure citizens our system of capital punishment is fair and consistent.
But three years ago the Florida Death Penalty Assessment Team made recommendations that should not have been ignored, and death penalty experts, both pro- and con-, have renewed calls for change. They met last month in Tallahassee to discuss the recommendations and develop strategies to see them put in place.
It's a good time to press lawmakers. Capital punishment is not cheap. The Death Penalty Information Center, which opposes capital punishment, says it costs Florida $51 million more to house death-row inmates than murderers sentenced to life without parole. With the state financially strapped, the cost of death row should be part of the discussion.
Lawmakers should also consider revising the law to require jurors' death sentence recommendations to be unanimous. Granted, such a change would have benefitted someone like Couey, who had two jurors refuse to recommend the death penalty. But today Florida alone allows jurors to make a recommendation based on a majority vote.
Finally, it's important to note that while Florida has executed 68 people since 1976, it has exonerated 23 inmates on death row – more than any other state. This statistic certainly suggests our system isn't perfect.
Citizens demand only one thing before the state invokes the ultimate penalty – unfailing certainty that the person is guilty.
That's the title of Errol Louis' column in today's New York Daily News. LINK
Opponents of the death penalty have reason for hope this week. Two high-profile cases are exposing the sick, barbaric folly of execution in America.
When the U.S. resumed executions in 1977, only 16 nations had abolished the death penalty; the number has since grown to 92. Five nations now carry out more than 90% of the world's executions: Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, China - and the United States.
We're in pretty grim company.
But this week, America took a step toward evolving in the direction of the civilized world.
And in Texas, a high-ranking judge is herself on trial - prosecuted for misconduct after callously refusing to hear the eleventh-hour appeal of a prisoner who was about to be executed.
The latest development in the Georgia case of Troy Anthony Davis is awe-inspiring.
For the first time in 50 years, the justices ordered a federal court to reopen a state murder case - even after a long line of appeals - and hear newly discovered evidence that might exonerate Davis.
As I've written in columns since 2007, the evidence of Davis' innocence is overwhelming. He was convicted in 1991 of the point-blank shooting of a Savannah police officer in a case with scant evidence: There was no murder weapon found, no confession, no fingerprints or other physical evidence.
Davis was sent to Death Row on the strength of nine witnesses. Seven have since recanted in sworn statements, with many claiming police coercion. An eighth witness first told cops he didn't know who the killer was, then "remembered" it was Davis two years later.
And the ninth witness, who originally pointed the finger at Davis, may be the real killer.
Keller has been charged with misconduct by the Texas Commission on Judicial Conduct and could be kicked off the bench for her actions on the night in 2007 that the state executed Michael Wayne Richard, a rapist and murderer.
"We close at 5," she said. Richard was executed at 8:23 that evening. And on the stand yesterday, Keller said that, if faced with the same situation, she'd slam shut the doors of the courthouse again.
That stiff-necked indifference to fairness and justice make Keller - "Killer Keller" to her critics - a poster child, along with Davis, for why we must end the death penalty.
A handful of weekend articles examine the current state of capital punishment in the nation. First, a column by James Cummings. He's a staff writer at Ohio's Dayton Daily News. It's titled, "Death penalty is being phased out." Here's an extended excerpt of this must-read:
There have been 35 people executed in the United States this year, the most recent being Daytonian Marvallous Keene, who died by lethal injection Tuesday, July 21, for the 1992 Christmas season killings of five people here.
In Western Europe, though, there hasn’t been an execution since 1977, according to Franklin Zimring in his 2003 book “The Contradictions of American Capital Punishment.”
While a public debate rages in America over whether capital punishment deters crime, there’s a debate within academic circles over why we stand alone among modern Western civilizations in continuing to execute.
Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias Heck Jr., who has prosecuted several capital murder cases, said studies saying the death penalty deters crime seem to be balanced by just as many saying the opposite.
“It’s a really difficult question because we cannot know what’s in a perpetrator’s mind just before he steals something, or robs a bank or shoots somebody,” Heck said.
Heck said he knows that some criminals shy away from using guns in crimes because they know being convicted of using a gun automatically adds a few years to a prison sentence. “But whether you can take the logical step that the death penalty is a deterrent, that’s really hard to say,” he said.
So why do Americans continue to execute in the face of such ambiguity?
Zimring theorized that the persistence of capital punishment is related to the belief developed through the history of certain parts of the country that the community has the right to exact justice.
Zimring points out that the states that have carried out the most executions since 1976 tend to be the same states in the South and Southwest where lynchings were most common in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Researcher David Garland offers a different theory in his 2005 article “Capital Punishment and American Culture” in the journal Punishment and Society.
Garland believes the United States is following the same path as Western Europe when it comes to capital punishment; we’re just a step or two behind.
Garland said as societies modernize they tend to follow a single pattern. First the range of offenses possibly leading to execution reduces. Next execution by torture disappears followed by the disappearance of public executions and the development of swift, painless forms of death.
Eventually a few people begin speaking out publicly against the death penalty, and public sentiment against the practice grows.
In the next phase, legal safeguards against inappropriate execution grow. What followed in Europe in the latter 20th century were reductions in the use of capital punishment followed by legal abolition.
A Step Back is planned as a recurring theme for this column in which issues in the news will be approached from a variety of social science perspectives. If you have a subject you’d like to see examined through the lens of history, psychology, anthropology, genetics, political science, communication theory or some other discipline, let me know. Also I welcome input from social scientists, ethicists, scholars and others with their own takes on the news.
The next two posts will link to news articles specific to Connecticut and Pennsylvania.
Dallas Morning Newser Michael Landauer has launched a Texas Death Penalty blog. I'll add it to the left-column webroll. The latest installment is titled, "Death penalty good or bad for an unstable government?" Here's an excerpt from that post:
Given the mention of China, this seems an appropriate place to note the Reuters report, "China to swap bullets for lethal injection."
Lethal injections were "cleaner, safer and more convenient," the official China Daily quoted the director of China's Supreme People's Court, Hu Yunteng, as saying.
"As lethal injection is the most popular method for execution adopted by countries with capital punishment, China will follow suit ... it is considered more humane," Hu added, although a complete nationwide shift was a long-term goal because of costs.
In the capital, however, a new facility near a prison that houses most of the capital's death row inmates has rooms for execution, observation and storage of bodies, the Beijing News reported.
Special judicial police would be trained to deliver the prisoners and administer the injections, while medical staff would supervise the drugs and confirm the deaths, the report added.
Lethal injection was legalised in China in 1997, and was first used in southwestern Yunnan region the next year, the China Daily said. Beijing began using the method to execute some prisoners in 2000, but it is still rare.
China is probably the world's most prolific state executioner, with at least 7,000 people sentenced to death and 1,718 people executed last year, according to rights group Amnesty International.
It has drawn criticism from rights activists for the high execution rate and the range of crimes that carry the death penalty. It now applies to more than 60 offences in China, including many non-violent and economic crimes.
In January 2007, the Supreme People's Court regained the power of final approval of death penalties, devolved to provincial high courts in the 1980s, and it promised to apply the ultimate punishment more carefully.
AFP has, "Beijing to adopt lethal injection," via Google News.
Authorities have built a site next to a prison outside Beijing housing most of the capital's death row inmates where the lethal injections are to be carried out, the China Daily reported.
Officials will soon start training judicial police to administer the injections, and medical staff will learn to supervise the use of drugs, monitor and confirm the deaths, the report said.
Hu Yunteng, head of the Supreme People's Court's research bureau, told the China Daily that lethal injection -- legalised here in 1997 -- was considered cleaner, safer and more convenient than gunshot executions.
"As lethal injection is the most popular method for execution adopted by countries with capital punishment, China will follow suit," Hu was quoted as saying.
"It is considered more humane as it reduces the criminals' fear and pain compared with gunshot execution."
In 2008, more than 1,700 people were executed in China out of a global total of almost 2,400, according to Amnesty International.
China does not publish data on the death penalty, and rights groups say the number could be much higher.
In the most recent high-profile case, China executed two Muslim men in its far northwest in April for a "terrorist" attack that was aimed at sabotaging last year's Olympics in Beijing and left 17 policemen dead.
China has slowly been reforming its death penalty system after acknowledging several miscarriages of justice.
Amnesty International today revealed that more people were executed in Asia than in any other part of the world in 2008 because China carried out more executions than the rest of the world put together. By contrast, in Europe only one country continues to use the death penalty: Belarus.
"The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. Beheadings, electrocutions, hangings, lethal injections, shootings and stonings have no place in the 21st century," said Irene Khan, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
The report Death Sentences and Executions in 2008, which provides a world overview on the death penalty, found that between January and December 2008 at least 2,390 people were executed in 25 countries around the world with at least 8,864 sentenced to death in 52 states.
Amnesty International also reports on countries that handed down death sentences after unfair trials, like Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen. The report addresses the discriminatory manner with which the death penalty was often applied in 2008, with a disproportionate number of sentences handed down to the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities, in countries such as Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and USA. And the risk of executing the innocent continues, as highlighted by the four inmates released from death row in the USA on grounds of innocence.
Many death row inmates languish in harsh detention conditions and face psychological hardship. For example, in Japan inmates are typically notified of their hanging only on the morning of their execution and their families are informed only after the execution has taken place.
“Capital punishment is not just an act but a legalized process of physical and psychological terror that culminates in people being killed by the state. It must be brought to an end,” said Irene Khan.
Most of the world is moving a step closer to the abolition of the death penalty, with only 25 out of the 59 countries that retain the death penalty reported to have actually executed in 2008. But Amnesty International warned that, in spite of this trend, death sentences continue to be handed out in their hundreds all over the world.
"Report Says Executions Doubled in 2008," is the New York Times' coverage by Mark McDonald and Michael Wines
Asian countries accounted for more executions than the rest of the world put together, the rights group said Tuesday in its annual report on the death penalty.
The group chronicled beheadings in Saudi Arabia; hangings in Japan, Iraq, Singapore and Sudan; lethal injections in China; an electrocution in the United States; firing squads in Afghanistan, Belarus and Vietnam; and stonings in Iran.
In all, 59 countries still have the death penalty on their books, but only 25 carried out executions last year. Two nations, Uzbekistan and Argentina, banned the death penalty last year. Amnesty said at least 2,390 people were executed worldwide in 2008, compared to its 2007 figure of at least 1,252.
With at least 1,718, China was responsible for 72 percent of all executions in 2008, the report stated. After China were Iran (346), Saudi Arabia (102), the United States (37) and Pakistan (36), according to the group.
“Together they carried out 93 percent of all executions worldwide,” the report said.
Chinese authorities also handed down at least 7,003 new death sentences last year, although the report said the true total of both executions and death sentences “remains shrouded in secrecy.” Some countries, China and North Korea among them, do not disclose the number of executions they carry out.
In China’s case, “real figures are undoubtedly higher,” the report stated.
AFP has, "Executions in US a regional phenomenon: Amnesty."
"Only nine of the 36 states that retained the death penalty in 2008 actually carried out executions, and the vast majority of these executions took place in one region: the South," the US section of the London-based human rights group said in a statement.
"Texas accounted for, in essence, half (18 of 37) of the US executions in 2008," it added. And the southern state has carried out 12 of the 20 nationwide executions so far this year.
Other states including Virginia (east), Tennessee (south), Alabama (south), Ohio (north) and Oklahoma (south) also allow lethal injections -- the preffered method of execution, but in much smaller numbers.
New Mexico, also in the south, last week abolished capital punishment in its territory.
"Executions in the United States are increasingly a regionally isolated phenomenon," said Amnesty's Death Penalty Abolition Campaign director Sue Gunawardena-Vaughn.
"Elsewhere, concerns about cost, the possibility of executing the innocent and racial bias have led to a significant decline in support for capital punishment", she added.
"China Tops World Execution List at 72%, Amnesty Says," is Bloomberg's report by Ed Johnson and Dune Lawrence.
Amnesty welcomed the UN General Assembly’s call for a global moratorium on the death penalty and said it marked “three decades of steady progress” on the issue. Twenty-five of the 59 countries that retain the death penalty reported using it in 2008, Amnesty said.
Still, St. Kitts and Nevis became the first Caribbean state to execute someone since 2003 and Liberia introduced the death penalty for the crimes of robbery, terrorism and hijacking, according to the report.
Capital punishment is a “legalized process of physical and psychological terror that culminates in people being killed by the state,” said Khan. “It must be brought to an end.”
AFP reports, "Mexican state wants death sentence for kidnappers," via Google News.
State lawmakers late Tuesday voted 22 to 10 to propose a constitutional amendment to allow state governments to reinstate the death penalty for lethal kidnapping, four years after it was abolished nationwide, spokesman Francisco Saracho told AFP.
Before the vote, Coahuila Governor Humberto Moreira told the meeting: "In Coahuila the death penalty is not the issue, it's how we should kill (the criminals); by firing squad, slashing their throats, hanging or something lighter, like lethal injection."
"We're at war, so let's deal with our enemies accordingly," Moreira said Tuesday alluding to President Felipe Calderon's declaration of war on organized crime and corruption in the country.
The death penalty was abolished in 2004 for civil criminal cases, but is still enforced in the military. The last execution carried out in Mexico was in 1961.
Growing crime in the country, in particular kidnappings for ransom, have stirred a pro-death penalty movement into action.
Earlier coverage of the issue in Mexico is here.
Sean Mattson of the San Antonio Express-News reported, "Some lawmakers want to bring back death penalty," in the Sunday edition.
In another sign this country is fed up with kidnappings, police corruption and narco-gang killing sprees, some lawmakers have proposed reinstating the death penalty just three years after legislators took it off the books.
Mexico's Green Party, or PVEM, drafted legislation allowing execution for kidnappers who are or were police officers and who kill or mutilate victims.
The proposal, which the PVEM trumpets in television advertisements, followed a high-profile kidnapping and killing of the 14-year-old son of a prominent businessman, a crime prosecutors say was partially masterminded by a high-ranking federal cop.
Legislators from other parties will be hesitant to back the proposal, but public outcry is growing as kidnappings rise and narco-hit men become indiscriminate in shootings.
“We find ourselves in a kidnapped country,” said Francisco Elizondo, a PVEM congressman promoting the bill. “Mexico has gone from a country where we only had narco-trafficking problems to (one with) many other problems with organized crime like terrorism and kidnapping.”
James Marquart, a criminology professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, said implementing the death penalty is a huge investment in terms of money, infrastructure and time.
“If you can learn anything from the American experience, in Texas it takes about eight to 10 years to execute somebody once he's convicted,” he said.
Marquart said the death penalty works if the aim is to simply get rid of the convicted offender. But hundreds of years of data suggest capital punishment is not a deterrent, even if the public believes otherwise, he said.
“The deterrent effect is elusive at best,” he said.
Edrick Wesley, a Brazilian doctor who has lived in Mexico for eight years, said Mexico's challenged justice system couldn't be trusted with the responsibility of administering the death penalty.
“I'm against the death penalty,” said Wesley, 28. “In a country like the United States, a First World country, they do things that aren't justice. Imagine the death penalty in the Third World if in the First World they do acts of injustice.”
The International Herald Tribune carries an AP report, "Amnesty report says China leads the world in executions.'
China executed more people than any other country in the world last year by putting at least 470 people to death, but the number of executions in the country actually fell compared to the year before, Amnesty International said.
In its annual report on worldwide executions, the human rights group said Tuesday that Iran remains the country with the second highest number of executions, and that the number had nearly doubled from the year before. The 377 inmates included a man stoned to death for committing adultery.
The United States was fifth in the rankings with 42 executions, reflecting a drop in the number of people put to death during the year. That was the lowest number of executions in the United States in about 15 years, Amnesty officials said. However, lethal injection executions have been on hold nationally while the U.S. Supreme Court considers a challenge in a case from Kentucky.
Amnesty analysts said China reformed the way capital cases are handled early in 2007, leading to a substantial reduction in executions. But they cautioned that the actual number of people put to death in China in 2007 is undoubtedly higher than the figure of 470 executions that could be confirmed — and they warned that the drop may be temporary.
"We do actually believe there has been a reduction in number of executions," said Piers Bannister, a death penalty researcher at Amnesty. "But how permanent and how significant that reduction is we don't know because it's a state secret."
AI issued a news release, "Secrecy Surrounds Death Penalty," announcing the report.
At least 1,200 people were executed in 2007 and many more were killed by the state, in secret, in countries including China, Mongolia and Viet Nam.
The figures come from Amnesty International's yearly statistics, Death Sentences and Executions in 2007, issued on Tuesday, which say that at least 1,252 people were executed in 24 countries and at least 3,347 people were sentenced to death in 51 countries. Up to 27,500 people are estimated to be on death row across the world.
The figures also show an increase in executions in a number of countries. Iran executed at least 317 people, Saudi Arabia 143 and Pakistan 135 – in comparison to 177, 39 and 82 executions respectively in 2006.
Eighty-eight per cent of all known executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA. Saudi Arabia had the highest number of executions per capita, followed by Iran and Libya. Amnesty International has been able to confirm at least 470 executions by China – the highest overall figure. However, the organization has said that the true figure for China is undoubtedly much higher.
China, which the report refers to as the world's top executioner, classifies the death penalty as a state secret. As the world and Olympic guests are left guessing, only the Chinese authorities know exactly how many people have been killed with state authorization.
"The secretive use of the death penalty must stop: the veil of secrecy surrounding the death penalty must be lifted. Many governments claim that executions take place with public support. People therefore have a right to know what is being done in their name," said Amnesty International.
The report is linked here.
That's the title of an AP dispatch by Mark Sherman, via the Washington Post. LINK
Just who was Justice Anthony Kennedy calling out when he fired back at critics of the Supreme Court's use of international law in its opinions?
"There was kind of a 'know-nothing' aspect to the debate, it seems to me," Kennedy said, recounting the hue and cry that followed his opinion outlawing the execution of people who were not yet 18 when they killed. In the 5-4 ruling, Kennedy invoked the practice of other countries in support of his position.
Only a few countries continue to allow the execution of juveniles. "This confirms our judgment" that the death penalty for those under 18 violates the Eighth Amendment, Kennedy said Wednesday night at the Meridian International Center in Washington.
But he said, "We were very clear to say we reach this as a matter of interpretation of our own Constitution."
Kennedy did not name names, but one of his most vocal critics was his colleague, Justice Antonin Scalia, whose dissenting opinion went on at length about the folly of citing foreign law.
"Because I do not believe that the meaning of our Eighth Amendment, any more than the meaning of other provisions of our Constitution, should be determined by the subjective views of five members of this court and like-minded foreigners, I dissent," Scalia wrote.
"The court's parting attempt to downplay the significance of its extensive discussion of foreign law is unconvincing. 'Acknowledgment' of foreign approval has no place in the legal opinion of this court unless it is part of the basis for the court's judgment, which is surely what it parades as today," Scalia said.
More on Roper v. Simmons is here.
AP has a dispatch, "Fleeing to Mexico Thwarts Death Penalty." It's reported by Michelle Roberts with contributions from other AP staffers.
A methamphetamine dealer who gunned down a deputy during a traffic stop in Southern California. A man in Arizona who killed his ex-girlfriend's parents and brother and snatched his children. A man who suffocated his baby daughter and left her body in a toolbag on an expressway overpass near Chicago.
Ordinarily, these would be death penalty cases. But these men fled to Mexico, thereby escaping the possibility of execution.
The reason: Mexico refuses to send anyone back to the United States unless the U.S. gives assurances it won't seek the death penalty — a 30-year-old policy that rankles some American prosecutors and enrages victims' families.
"We find it extremely disturbing that the Mexican government would dictate to us, in Arizona, how we would enforce our laws at the same time they are complaining about our immigration laws," said Barnett Lotstein, special assistant to the prosecutor in Maricopa County, Ariz., which includes Phoenix.
"Even in the most egregious cases, the Mexican authorities say, `No way,' and that's not justice. That's an interference of Mexican authorities in our judicial process in Arizona."
It may be about to happen again: A Marine accused of murdering a pregnant comrade in North Carolina and burning her remains in his backyard is believed to have fled to Mexico. Prosecutors said they have not decided whether to seek the death penalty. But if the Marine is captured in Mexico, capital punishment will be off the table.
Fugitives trying to escape the long arm of the law have been making a run for the border ever since frontier days, a practice romanticized in countless Hollywood Westerns.
Mexico routinely returns fugitives to the U.S. to face justice. But under a 1978 treaty with the U.S., Mexico, which has no death penalty, will not extradite anyone facing possible execution. To get their hands on a fugitive, U.S. prosecutors must agree to seek no more than life in prison.
The Justice Department said death assurances from foreign countries are fairly common, but it had no immediate numbers. State Department officials said Mexico extradited 73 suspects to the U.S. in 2007. Most were wanted on drug or murder charges.
Lolita Parkinson, a spokeswoman for the Mexican Consulate in Houston, said Mexico opposes capital punishment on human rights grounds and has a particular obligation to protect the rights of people of Mexican descent who face prosecution in the U.S.
Also recently, prosecutors in Dallas pledged not to seek the death penalty if Mexico extradites Ernesto Reyes, a man accused of killing and burning the body of a University of North Texas student last year. That extradition request is still pending.
The international law index is here.
That's the title of an editorial in today's New York Times. LINK
The United Nations General Assembly voted on Tuesday for a global moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution was nonbinding; its symbolic weight made barely a ripple in the news ocean of the United States, where governments’ right to kill a killer is enshrined in law and custom.
But for those who have been trying to move the world away from lethal revenge as government policy, this was a milestone. The resolution failed repeatedly in the 1990s, but this time the vote was 104 to 54, with 29 nations abstaining. Progress has come in Europe and Africa. Nations like Senegal, Burundi, Gabon — even Rwanda, shamed by genocide — have decided to reject the death penalty, as official barbarism.
The United States, as usual, lined up on the other side, with Iran, China, Pakistan, Sudan and Iraq. Together this blood brotherhood accounts for more than 90 percent of the world’s executions, according to Amnesty International. These countries’ devotion to their sovereignty is rigid, as is their perverse faith in execution as a criminal deterrent and an instrument of civilized justice. But out beyond Texas, Ohio, Virginia, Myanmar, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe, there are growing numbers who expect better of humanity.
Many are not nations or states but groups of regular people, organizations like the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic movement begun in Italy whose advocacy did much to bring about this week’s successful vote in the General Assembly.
They are motivated by hope — and there is even some in the United States. The Supreme Court will soon hear debate on the cruelty of execution by lethal injection. On Monday, New Jersey became the first state in 40 years to abolish its death penalty.
The editorial index is here.
That's the Reuters headline. LINK
he U.N. General Assembly passed a nonbinding resolution on Tuesday calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, overcoming protests from a bloc of states that said it undermined their sovereignty.
The resolution, which calls for "a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty," was passed by a 104 to 54 vote, with 29 abstentions.
"The resolution is not an interference, but we call on each member state of the United Nations to implement the resolution and also to open a debate on the death penalty," Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said after the vote.
"The moratorium is an important opportunity for international debate," he told reporters. Italy, speaking on behalf of the EU, was a strong proponent of the resolution.
The Los Angeles Times reports, "U.N. adopts death penalty moratorium."
"There is no conclusive evidence of the death penalty's deterrence value and . . . any miscarriage or failure of justice in the death penalty's implementation is irreversible and irreparable," the proponents said in the resolution adopted by the 192-nation assembly. There were 29 abstentions.
Two previous attempts to have the General Assembly adopt a moratorium on the death penalty, in 1994 and 1999, failed.
But since then, the number of countries that have abolished capital punishment in law or practice has grown to 133, according to Amnesty International.
"Today's vote represents a bold step by the international community," said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. "This is further evidence of a trend towards ultimately abolishing the death penalty."
When Ban took office in January, he responded to questions about the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein by saying that each country should be allowed to choose its own policies, but he quickly embraced the official U.N. anti-death penalty view.
The European Union, which requires its 27 members to outlaw capital punishment, led the campaign at the U.N.
The New York Times has a brief by Warren Hoge, "United Nations: Assembly Calls for Freeze on Death Penalty."
In a vote that made for unusual alliances, the General Assembly passed, 104 to 54 with 29 abstentions, a nonbinding resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty. Among the countries joining the United States in opposition to the European-led measure were Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan and Zimbabwe. Opponents argued that the resolution undermined their national sovereignty. Two similar moves in the 1990s failed, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the new vote was “evidence of a trend toward ultimately abolishing the death penalty.”
Louise Arbour, the UN's high commissioner for human rights, has the OpEd, "The U.N.'s death blow," in the Los Angeles Times.
When the U.N. General Assembly called Tuesday for a worldwide moratorium on the application of the death penalty, it took a significant step toward the definitive abolition of capital punishment, a move that would enhance the protection of human rights and the inviolability of the person.
This sentiment finds echoes in every region of the world. According to Amnesty International, no fewer than 133 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice. And that trend continues. Last July, Rwanda, a country that has suffered the ultimate crime of genocide and whose people's thirst for justice is far from quenched, decided to forgo the sanction of capital punishment. In so doing, Rwanda has given a powerful endorsement of the importance of pursuing justice while repudiating violence to attain it.
Despite these developments, and despite the fact that a small group of countries -- China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan and the United States -- reportedly accounted for 91% of the executions in 2006, the death penalty is practiced in too many places. Regrettably, some nations that had effectively applied a moratorium on executions, such as Afghanistan, have recently resumed them -- despite serious doubts about the death penalty's supposed deterrent effect on criminality, despite the danger of errors in its application and despite the irreparable consequences of such errors.
The death penalty must always be regarded as an extreme exception to the fundamental right to life -- which is protected under international law -- and, as such, must be interpreted in the most restrictive manner. Accordingly, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides for very specific conditions under which it may be imposed. In particular, it states that capital punishment may be meted out only in the face of the most serious crimes, and only after trial and appeal proceedings that scrupulously respect all the principles of due process. In addition, the death penalty should always be administered in accordance with laws in force at the time of the commission of the crime. Minors and pregnant women must be spared. Capital punishment can neither be mandatory nor carried out in secret. And the methods of execution must meet standards of the least possible physical and mental suffering.
If the General Assembly's call for a global moratorium is an additional and crucial stepping stone in the natural progression toward abolishing the death penalty altogether, the heart of the matter now and in the future remains in the actual implementation of this vital pledge. Ultimately, it is through example that more countries may be persuaded to join the consensus and abandon the abhorrent practice of capital punishment.
EU Observer has, "EU death penalty day gets Polish blessing."
Poland has lifted its veto on creating a "European Day Against the Death Penalty," clearing the way for EU justice ministers to adopt the plan in Brussels on Friday (7 December).
The move will see the EU join the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe and NGOs such as Amnesty International in campaigning for worldwide abolition every year on 10 October.
Abolition is already a pre-requisite for joining the EU, but Poland's previous government - led by the rightist and populist Law and Justice party - took a lone stance against the project earlier this year.
The new government, led by the more liberal Civic Platform, has promised to return Poland to the EU mainstream on a range of issues including civil rights and euro-adoption.
"Everything has changed in Poland. The government has changed. Poland has changed and the decision has changed," interior minister Grzegorz Schetyna told Polish press agency PAP on the eve of the Friday meeting.
The death penalty shift was quickly welcomed by the Portuguese EU presidency, but some EU diplomats remain curious how Civic Platform will handle harder issues, such as a proposed Russia-Germany gas pipeline, which threatens Polish energy interests.
Reuters has, "EU agreed death penalty day, Poland lifts veto."
The European Union agreed on Friday to establish a European day against the death penalty after Poland's new government lifted its predecessor's veto on the idea.
The euro-skeptic government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski had blocked the move for months, saying such an event should also condemn abortion and euthanasia. Kaczynski and his twin brother, President Lech Kaczynski, spoke out personally in favor of the death penalty but did not try to restore it while in power.
The centre-right Civic platform party led by Donald Tusk, who became prime minister last month, has taken a more pro-European stance.
"Ministers approved the European day against death penalty after Poland lifted its reserve," an EU official said.
"The EU Presidency said that European values were back on the table," the official said after justice ministers decided on Friday to make October 10 an annual symbol of the 27-nation bloc's long-standing abolition of capital punishment.
The dispute had become emblematic of tense relations between Warsaw and Brussels.
It is compulsory for EU states to abolish the death penalty.
Poland, along with Ireland and Malta, bans abortion on demand, and its priests and politicians often condemn what they call a "culture of death" permitting euthanasia in countries such as the Netherlands.
Earlier coverage is here.
BBC News has, "EU anti-death penalty day vetoed."
The EU, where the capital punishment is outlawed, had planned to mark the anti-death penalty day on 10 October.
Poland's conservative government has in the past called for a re-opening of the debate on capital punishment.
The European Commission said a conference scheduled to launch the EU day against the death penalty would still go ahead on 9 October.
But with Poland digging in its heels, delegates may find the debate is livelier than they had expected, the BBC's Alix Kroeger in Brussels says.
This is the latest in a series of political clashes between Brussels and Warsaw, on everything from homosexuality to environmental protection, our correspondent says.
She says that Poland's junior coalition partner, the ultra-conservative League of Polish Families, wants to bring back the death penalty for paedophiles.
Polish President Lech Kaczynski last year called on EU member states to reintroduce the death penalty.
Poland, along with Ireland and Malta, are the only members where abortion is illegal.
Poland's Roman Catholic clergy and politicians have described the practice of euthanasia in countries such as the Netherlands as a "culture of death".
The latest row comes as Poland prepares for early general elections on 21 October.
The BBC also carries editor Mark Mardell's Euroblog and his post, "Death and destructive lifestyles."
The British justice minister and former foreign secretary Jack Straw seemed almost glad to be back in Brussels when he met the British press after this lunch. He was adamant that to hold a day against the death penalty was right and went on to praise the Portuguese, who hold the presidency, for forcing the issue.
He also said that Portugal was the first European country to abolish the death penalty, back in the 19th Century, and that this had held even during the years of dictatorship.
You really do learn something every day in this job.
He also said: "I think the death penalty is something people have intense debates about, but abortion and euthanasia are seen as a private matter. I will make this comment about United States politics: I do not wish the United Kingdom to end up in a position where issues of conscience become a big party and partisan issue."
EU Observer has, "Poland chooses isolation over EU anti-death penalty day."
Poland is continuing to veto the creation of a European day against the death penalty, further escalating its row with the rest of the EU club and earning itself an accusation of "moral decay".
On Tuesday (18 September), EU justice ministers failed to give the anti-death penalty day the formal go-ahead, saying Warsaw alone had objected to the idea.
"Unfortunately, it was not possible to find a consensus among all the 27 member states", Portuguese justice minister Alberto Costa, speaking on behalf of his country's EU presidency, told reporters.
He added, however, this "does not mean that Europe is not committed to the abolition of the death penalty in the world and this position shall not change".
The EU had planned to mark a European Day against the Death Penalty each year on 10 October – in efforts to add to the weight of the World Day against the Death Penalty celebrated since 2003 as well as to gain a new symbolic tool when talking to pro-death penalty countries such as the US, China or African states.
But Warsaw has insisted that the EU "should approach the subject in a broader way and debate the protection of life" – something that would also include issues such as abortion and euthanasia.
It argues it is not necessary to establish a special day against capital punishment because it is outlawed throughout the 27-nation union. Instead it suggests celebrating a "right to life" day.
The Polish justice minister is said to have read out loud the number of abortions in Denmark, Sweden and Finland during the meeting.
Danish justice minister Lene Espersen said after the meeting that the rest of the EU club was "annoyed" by the situation.
Financial Times has, "Poland in EU battle on death penalty."
The dispute, though hardly a burning issue for the EU, illustrates how strained relations have become between Poland and some of its partners since the Kaczynski twins took power in Warsaw – Lech as president in December 2005 and Jaroslaw as prime minister seven months later.
Diplomats said the Polish refusal to endorse a common stance against the death penalty had been widely expected because it would have been all but impossible for the Kaczynskis’ Law and Justice party to make concessions ahead of a general election on October 21.
Earlier coverage is here.
Yahoo News carries an AFP report, "Gabon to scrap death penalty."
on Friday became the latest country to move towards scrapping the death penalty ahead of a resolution on a to be put before the UN General Assembly.
Gabon's cabinet said it decided to scrap the death penalty after noting that no executions have been carried out in the west African country for more than 20 years, and following a request from President.
At the urging of the Spanish and French governments and the, Gabon will co-sponsor a resolution on a global moratorium on executions to be introduced at the UN General Assembly later this month, it said.
The BBC reports, "China to reduce death penalty use."
China's Supreme Court has ordered judges to be more sparing in the imposition of the death penalty.
An order on its website said execution should be reserved for "an extremely small number of serious offenders".
It said the death penalty should be withheld in certain cases of crimes of passion or economic crimes.
Amnesty International says China carried out two-thirds of the world's executions last year, but China says it expects a 10-year low this year.
The Supreme Court said murders triggered by family disputes should not always result in the death penalty.
Crimes of passion should take into account the offender's payment of compensation, it said.
Similarly, those convicted of economic crimes should be treated more leniently if they help to recoup money that was defrauded.
The court suggested greater use of two-year suspensions on death penalties - allowing them to be converted to imprisonment.
The Guardian has, "Poland blocks EU protest over death penalty."
Poland is blocking a move by all other EU countries to inaugurate a continent-wide day of protest against the death penalty, with the conservative and staunchly Roman Catholic government in Warsaw arguing for parallel European condemnation of abortion and euthanasia.
Frantic efforts were under way behind the scenes yesterday to try to persuade the government of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the prime minister, to end its opposition to making October 10 Europe's day against the death penalty.
Capital punishment is outlawed everywhere in the EU. All 26 EU countries, except Poland, support the proposal which was scheduled for agreement next week at a meeting of EU ministers.
The decision may need to be scrapped because of Poland's opposition which has exasperated many EU governments and added to the Kaczynski government's reputation as the most troublesome in the union.
The measure requires the support of all EU governments to be implemented.
The issue was to have been discussed by EU ambassadors in Brussels today but has been dropped because of the prospect of failure.
Instead ministers from Portugal, currently chairing the EU and hosting next week's meeting, were lobbying the Polish government yesterday to lift its veto.
While Poland observes the European ban on the death penalty, its president, Lech Kaczynski, the prime minister's twin brother, has called for a re-examination of the ban, while Roman Giertych, leader of a far-right party and, until recently, deputy prime minister, wants it to reintroduced for convicted paedophiles.
Richard Howitt, a Labour MEP and vice-president of the European parliament's human rights subcommittee, said Poland's position brought into question its commitment to European values. Any attempt by Warsaw to reintroduce the death penalty could see its EU membership frozen, he added.
An earlier post is here.
I had a lengthy conversation recently with Peter Hodgkinson, Director of the Centre for Capital Punishment Studies at the University of Westminster in London. Peter serves as death penalty advisor to the Council of Europe and to the United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary.
First, is an article that I only saw on The Nation of Thailand's website, "Barroso will intensify EU fight against death penalty."
Bucharest - EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso speaking at a major gathering of Christian churches on Thursday said he would seek to intensify the EU's worldwide campaign against capital punishment.
Speaking to reporters in the Romanian town of Sibiu, where the European ecumenical meeting is taking place until Sunday, Barroso said that opposition to the death penalty was one of the values of the European Union.
Supported by the spiritual contribution of the churches the Union could however do more to propagate this message among nations where capital punishment still existed, Barroso said.
Some 2,500 participants from all Christian confessions were due to attend the third ecumenical gathering in Sibiu, including the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I, and the secretary general of the Council of Europe Terry Davis.
Peter mentioned that the death penalty as a priority issue ebbs and flows depending on who holds the EU presidency, a job that shifts every six months. He noted that the issue is not a priority in Poland, a fact reflected in a Euro Observer article, "Poland opposes EU day against death penalty."
Poland is opposing the creation of a yearly 'European day against the death Penalty', arguing that the issue should form part of a broader discussion on life and death – including abortion and euthanasia.
In a meeting of EU member states' justice experts in Brussels on Tuesday (4 September), Poland opposed a draft EU declaration announcing the bloc will from now on organize a European day against the death Penalty each year on 10 October.
The draft declaration should be signed by the EU jointly with the 47-member human rights body the Council of Europe - before next month when the first death penalty day has been scheduled.
But Poland is against the initiative, which was formally proposed by the European Commission in June.
"We don't think that the idea is reasonable because the death penalty is not a problem in Europe. There is no use to promote the law that is already in force in every European country," the spokesman for Polish foreign minister Ana Fotyga told EUobserver.
In arguments greeted with astonishment by some of its EU partners, Poland said in Tuesday's meeting that the idea of the "right to life" cannot be reduced to the death penalty problem alone - and so the issue does not merit a special European day.
"We think that when anybody wants to discuss a problem of death in the context of the law it is also worth to discuss on euthanasia and abortion in this context," the Polish spokesman explained.
"We are not sure whether it is worth establishing a special day [only on the death penalty]," he added.
The European Commission rejected the link between the death penalty and other "right to life" issues. "In our view the context of the discussion is limited and clear. The subject of the debate is the death penalty," a spokesman said.
Meanwhile, another factor behind Warsaw's position on the issue appears to be domestic public opinion, with a Polish diplomat indicating that "some polls show that Polish public opinion is divided on the subject."
The European day against the death Penalty should come in addition to the 'World Day against the Death Penalty', which has taken place on 10 October every year since 2003.
In the draft declaration opposed by the Poles, the EU and the Council of Europe "stress the importance of persevering in the pursuit of actions aimed at abolishing the death penalty in the world."
The two organisations "invite European citizens to support the abolition of the death penalty in the world and thereby contribute to the development of fundamental rights and human dignity."
Warsaw's move comes ahead of a meeting of EU justice ministers on 18 September which would formally give the go-ahead for the death penalty day.
That's the title of a post, subtitled, "A Cruel and Unusual Excuse," by Greg Moses at CounterPunch.org.
The Governor's failure to state the case more clearly not only deflects dialogue on the second point raised by the EU; it also serves to fog the fact that the Governor completely evades the other three issues raised. If Texas takes the position that death for death is just, based on the horribleness of the crime, where does Texas stand on the other three issues raised by the EU?
Does Texas not believe that an eventual end to the death penalty is demanded by "the protection of human dignity, and to the progressive development of human rights"? The Governor's reply to the EU waves the bloody shirt of a 230-year-old war, but what about the progressive evolution of law in the USA since that time? Didn't Texas and USA follow several European examples in the abolition of slavery for example? Is the Governor suggesting that such monumental achievements of legal progress in Texas will require the world to apply the same methods that put an end to slavery?
As for the third point raised by the EU, where does Texas stand on the question of deterrent effect? Does the Governor ease his own conscience by thinking about deterrence or not?
"Texas shrugs off critics on 400th execution," is the title of a widely distributed report by Agence France-Presse, via the Philippines' Inquirer, LINK
The US state of Texas brushed off critics Wednesday as it readied for the grim new milestone of its 400th execution since capital punishment was reinstated in the United States in 1976.
A handful of protesters were outside the prison here -- some to assert their support for capital punishment, others against -- while 32-year-old African- American Johnny Ray Conner was being prepared for his late afternoon execution by lethal injection for shooting to death a store clerk during a 1998 hold-up.
There was little likelihood of an intervention to stop Conner's death, after Texas Governor Rick Perry delivered a sharp riposte to a European Union call Tuesday for him to issue a stay.
"The European Union strongly urges Governor Rick Perry to exercise all powers vested in his office to halt all upcoming executions and to consider the introduction of a moratorium in the State of Texas," the EU's current Portuguese presidency said in a statement.
Perry toughly rejected the appeal, suggesting it was out of place since the United States asserted its independence from Britain in the 18th century.
The Star of South Africa carried a brief, " A macabre milestone."
The Council of Europe yesterday condemned the US and Japan over their use of the death penalty, calling a recent execution in Texas - the 400th since 1982 - a "macabre milestone". The 47-member body for the defence of human rights and democracy said the death penalty had "no legitimate place in the penal systems of modern civilised societies".
The Melbourne Herald-Sun, which bills itself as Australia's largest selling daily, has, "Texas kills its 400th convict."
Since the Supreme Court lifted the moratorium on capital punishment in 1976, 1092 people have been executed in the US, including Conner, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre.
Conner's execution in Huntsville, north of Houston, was sharply criticised by death penalty opponents who said it was inhumane and would not deter criminals.
"It's a pretty sad day for the progression - or lack thereof - for human rights in this state," said Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty president Rick Halperin.
He called state-ordered executions "barbaric and outdated".
On Wednesday, the European Union urged Texas Governor Rick Perry to halt executions.
That's the title of an OpEd in today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram by freelance writer Timothy A. O'Leary. LINK
As a Texan living in Europe, I'm appalled by the state's execution Wednesday of Johnny Ray Conner.
Capital punishment is wrong. In the 27 countries of the European Union and in Switzerland, where I live, capital punishment is rightly banned as cruel and inhumane, an offense against human dignity and an ineffective deterrent to violent crime.
I applaud the European Union for urging Texas Gov. Rick Perry to spare Conner, who was the 400th person to be executed in the state since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976. The European Union implored the governor to "exercise all powers vested in his office to halt all upcoming executions and to consider the introduction of a moratorium."
It's embarrassing enough to be from a state that sails so aggressively against the tide of civilization. But what really floored me was Perry's petty response. In effect, he told the European Union to mind its own business.
"Two hundred and thirty years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination. Texans long ago decided the death penalty is just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens," said spokesman Robert Black.
But it didn't stop there. "While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas," he said.
Never mind that Perry misrepresents the European Union's intervention as an attempt to restore the rule of European monarchs in America. I've lived in Europe since April 2005. I see no indications that Queen Elizabeth II is about to send red-coated Hessian mercenaries to reoccupy Boston and New York -- or Dallas/Fort Worth.
What I dislike is Perry's insinuation that we Americans fought to make the country safe for institutionalized lynching. I doubt that the Founders would approve of the haphazard and unfair manner in which justice is administered in Texas.
The Guardian has, "Texas executes 400th inmate in 25 years."
Texas reached a milestone last night when a man who murdered a convenience store worker became the 400th person executed by the US state since it resumed capital punishment in 1982.
Last year 53 people were executed in the US, putting it behind China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, and Sudan in a ranking of countries with the most executions.
Texas carried out 24 of last year's executions in America.
A spokesman for Portugal, which holds the EU's rotating Presidency, said that Conner’s execution was chosen to highlight the EU’s opposition to the death penalty because it was a macabre milestone, and denied that it amounted to interference in another country’s affairs.
He added: "Texas has said it can run Texas just fine - we take note. But as far as the death penalty goes, we have a principled opposition and that applies to everyone. It is not undue interference with internal affairs."
UK's Telegraph has, "Texas executes 400th inmate."
Even though many American states have put a moratorium on executions, Texas continues to push ahead with almost weekly executions. Three more convicts are scheduled to die next week.
Of America's 50 states, 12 refused to restore capital punishment in 1976; four did but have not since executed anyone; and 14 have had five or fewer executions.
The Independent of Ireland has, "Governor of Texas: Death penalty stays."
THE Governor of Texas yesterday rejected an extraordinary public appeal by 40 countries, including all members of the EU, to call off the 400th execution held in the state since the restoration of the death penalty in 1976.
Speaking before the execution by lethal injection of Johnny Ray Connor for the murder of a convenience store worker, Rick Perry told the European nations that the US had fought for its independence from them in order to determine its own laws and punishments.
The plea was issued by the Portuguese Government, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, after consulting with all 27 member states as well as neighbouring countries -- some of which have abolished capital punishment -- including Turkey, Serbia and Azerbaijan.
ABC News, as in Australia, has, "Texas executes 400th inmate."
Since the 1976 reinstatement, which Texas made official in 1982, Texas has accounted for more than one-third of the total 1,091 executions carried out country-wide.
This year, with other states now reticent, it will account for nearly two-thirds.
Ahead of Conner's execution, the southern state had carried out 20 of the 34 US judicial killings in 2007.
By comparison, 12 of the 50 states refused to restore capital punishment in 1976; four did but have not since executed anyone; and 14 have had five or fewer executions.
The West Australian has, "Texas executes 400th inmate since 1976."
The Texas execution was the 400th in the United States' most active death penalty state since the US Supreme Court allowed capital punishment to resume in 1976.
Texas resumed carrying out executions six years later.
The milestone had prompted an unusual direct appeal from the European Union. The EU, which opposes capital punishment and bans it in its 27 nations, made an unusual direct appeal to Governor Rick Perry to stop Conner's execution and impose a death penalty moratorium.
“230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination. Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens. While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas.”
As Texas prepares today to make Johnny Ray Conner its 400th executed inmate since the state resumed the death penalty in 1982, the European Union is asking Gov. Rick Perry to do all he can to halt the practice.
Perry said, in essence, it's none of the EU's business.
The governor's spokesman, Robert Black, said in a statement that "230 years ago, our forefathers fought a war to throw off the yoke of a European monarch and gain the freedom of self-determination.
"Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens. While we respect our friends in Europe, welcome their investment in our state and appreciate their interest in our laws, Texans are doing just fine governing Texas."
It's not the first time the EU has sought such action, and it hasn't been alone in doing so.
One of the most high-profile Texas cases occurred in 1998, when pickax-murderer-turned-born-again-Christian Karla Faye Tucker's impending execution drew thousands of messages worldwide, mostly opposing the execution.
Then-Gov. George W. Bush refused to grant a 30-day delay, making Tucker's execution No. 145 since 1982.
AP has this report, via the Dallas Morning News.
AP has this report, via the Dallas Morning News.
The European Union on Tuesday urged Texas Gov. Rick Perry to halt this evening what would be the state's 400th execution since the death penalty was resumed in 1982.
The unusual direct request included an appeal for a moratorium on capital punishment in the United States' busiest death penalty state.
Perry spokesman Robert Black responded that while Texas "respects our friends in Europe" the state would decline the call for a moratorium.
"Texans long ago decided that the death penalty is a just and appropriate punishment for the most horrible crimes committed against our citizens," he said.
The death penalty is banned in the 27-nation EU, which also fights for its global abolition.
"The irreversibility of the punishment means that miscarriages of justice – which are inevitable in all legal systems – cannot be redressed," EU officials said in a statement.
Johnny Ray Conner, 32, is scheduled to be executed this evening for the shooting death of a Houston grocery store owner during an attempted holdup in 1998.
The European Union on Tuesday urged the governor of Texas to halt executions and introduce a moratorium on capital punishment in the United States' busiest death penalty state.
In an unusual direct appeal, the EU said Texas Gov. Rick Perry must "exercise all powers vested in his office" to halt the impending 400th execution since Texas resumed carrying out death sentences in 1982.
The execution of Johnny Ray Conner is scheduled for this week. He is to die for the shooting death of a Houston grocery store owner during an attempted holdup in 1998,
"The European Union notes with great regret the upcoming execution in the State of Texas," the bloc said in a statement.
The death penalty is banned in the 27-nation EU, which also fights for its the global abolition.
"Rudd to rid world of death penalty: book," is the title of a report at ABC News (as in Australia.)
An authorised biography of aspiring prime minister Kevin Rudd says one of his objectives if he gets elected will be to rid the world of the death penalty.
The book also explains why as an 11-year-old Mr Rudd and his family were evicted from the Eumundi farm after the death of his father.
Biographer Robert Macklin says Mr Rudd has not spoken about either issue extensively before.
"There's a heck of a lot that is absolutely brand new [in this biography]," Macklin said.
"For example, I'm sure that no one has ever mentioned that if he gets to be prime minister one of his important foreign policy objectives will be to begin a campaign to rid the world of the death penalty."
The link also offers video and audio.
That's the title of the latest column by Cragg Hines, a member of the Houston Chronicle's Washington, D.C. bureau. LINK
Just another sick anachronism from the Iraq war:
The Bush administration, acknowledging the public relations disasters that were the execution of Saddam Hussein and a similarly murderous colleague, is now trying to get the Iraqi government to go easy on another Baathist who is headed for the noose.
This is at the same time that the Bush administration is pressing for more death penalties and executions in federal prosecutions in the United States.
As a result of Justice Department pressure on U.S. attorneys around the country, there are now at least a half dozen federal prisoners facing the death penalty for federal crimes committed in states that do not themselves allow capital punishment, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales are ecstatic. Just like they always have been when the needle gets close to a convict's arm.
To review: Gonzales, as Gov. Bush's legal counsel in Austin before appointments by his patron that included the Texas Supreme Court, was the author of the kiss-off reviews of Texas death penalty cases that allowed Bush to refuse clemency in more than 99 percent of those he considered.
More than 150 men were executed on Bush's six-year watch in Austin, and then there was Karla Faye Tucker, whom Bush even mocked ("Please, don't kill me," he aped for Tucker Carlson) in the days before the state killed her.
Bush has stated repeatedly that he is certain that not a single one of those people was innocent, which has to be the ultimate in Texas braggadocio.
Against this unflinching backdrop, the Bush administration has now gone all queasy about the prospect that Taha Yassin Ramadan, a Saddam vice president, will be strung up in Baghdad.
That discomfort is well-placed but for all the wrong reasons.
The trial court sentenced Ramadan to life imprisonment, but an appeals court has ruled that punishment too lenient and said Ramadan must die.
That seems the sort of death-by-review twist that Bush and Gonzales would hail, were it legal in the United States. (And let's not give them any ideas.)
According to the Wall Street Journal, legal experts hired by the United States are rustling up rationales to argue against Ramadan's executions. When a legal aid lawyer pulls that in the United States, death penalty enthusiasts have been known to mutter about cutting off funding.
So why all the sudden boo-hooing over an impending execution in Baghdad?
The Journal quoted a senior administration official: "We've had two botched executions. We would like to prevent additional debacles."
If you have been following the death-penalty debate in the United States, I don't have to point out how rich this last-minute concern is.
Botched executions? Hardly an Iraq-only phenomenon.
Even the president's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, called at least a temporary halt to executions in his state and ordered up a study after it took more than half an hour to kill Angel Diaz in December. The needle was rammed through the convict's vein and the deadly chemical cocktail was injected into soft tissue.
If this were in the manuscript for a novel, the author would get a rejection slip by return mail. But it's all too real. Your government at work.
That's the title of an article in today's New York Times. LINK
Responding to domestic and international criticism of its extensive use of capital punishment, China adopted new rules on Tuesday requiring review of all death sentences by the Supreme People’s Court, state news media reported.
The move, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, restores a power that was stripped from the Supreme Court in 1983 and given to provincial courts as part of a major crackdown on crime. The authorities are facing mounting criticism from human rights groups and Chinese legal scholars for what they say is the widespread and arbitrary use of the death penalty.
China executes more people every year than all other nations combined, by some Chinese estimates, up to 10,000 a year. Chinese courts have been embarrassed in recent years by a number of executions of people who were later proved innocent.
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