[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Jul 9 23:09:39 CDT 2005
Backing Away From the Death Penalty----A Trend Broadens, With One Big
The resignation of Justice Sandra Day O'Connor from the U.S. Supreme Court
will draw attention to a number of sensitive issues, including the death
penalty. The eventual candidate's record on this issue will likely face
careful examination by the Senate, which votes on high-court nominees.
An Associated Press article July 2 noted that O'Connor played a key voting
role on death penalty cases. Her successor, if seated by the start of the
new term in October, would have to decide on four death penalty cases that
are pending. The article noted that O'Connor supported the death penalty,
but talked openly about her concerns as to whether it is being imposed
On March 21 the U.S. bishops' conference launched a campaign against
capital punishment. "We cannot teach that killing is wrong by killing. We
cannot defend life by taking life," argued Cardinal Theodore McCarrick,
archbishop of Washington, when speaking at the National Press Club,
according to a March 21 press release issued by the episcopal conference.
The initiative, under the title of the "Catholic Campaign to End the Use
of the Death Penalty," has its own Web site, www.ccedp.org.
During the press conference launching the campaign, pollster John Zogby
reported that support among Catholics for the death penalty has diminished
notably. A survey done last November found that 48% of adult Catholics
support the use of the death penalty, while 47% oppose it. This is a
significant decline in support compared with past years. Moreover,
frequent Mass-goers and younger Catholics are less likely to support
capital punishment than other Catholics do.
In fact, both the number of executions and new death-penalty sentences are
dropping, according to a report by the Death Penalty Information Center.
The Washington, D.C.-based group, which issued data for 2004 last Dec. 14,
reported that the number of people sentenced to death annually has dropped
by 50% since 1999.
In addition, the number of individuals on death row fell slightly, from
3,504 in 2003 to 3,471 in 2004. Executions fell by 10%, down from 65 in
2003 to 59 in 2004. "The public's confidence in the death penalty has
seriously eroded over the past several years," said Richard Dieter, DPIC
executive director. "Because of so many failures, the death penalty is
rightly on the defensive."
Recent decisions have seen victories for opponents of the death penalty.
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, abolished capital punishment for
juvenile offenders. The court concluded that the death penalty for minors
is cruel and unusual punishment, and in the decision cited a "national
consensus" against the practice, the Washington Post reported March 2.
The judgment overturned a 1989 ruling that had upheld the death penalty
for 16- and 17-year-old offenders. Until then, 20 states permitted the
death penalty for offenders younger than 18. There have been 22 executions
of juveniles since 1976, when the death penalty was reintroduced.
The Washington Post noted that this was the 2nd time in 3 years that the
court had established a new category of persons exempt from the death
penalty. In 2002 it banned capital punishment for the moderately mentally
In May, the Supreme Court dismissed a Mexican citizen's appeal against his
death sentence, but only after the federal government changed its policy
regarding the rights of foreigners. The underlying issue in the case is
whether the federal government follows the requirement of the Vienna
Convention on Consular Relations that the embassy officials of foreign
citizens be notified of the trials, according to the New York Times on May
In past years 51 Mexicans were tried and convicted without Mexico's
authorities being notified. Last December President George Bush told
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to instruct state courts to abide by a
World Court ruling that required new hearings for the 51 Mexicans. The
Supreme Court justices in fact did hear arguments in the case, but with
the change in policy they eventually decided not to issue a ruling.
On April 5 Amnesty International released a report on the application of
the death penalty worldwide. The human rights group said 3,797 people in
25 countries were executed last year. As well, 7,395 in 64 countries were
sentenced to death.
A few countries accounted for most of the executions. China officially
executed at least 3,400 people, but the real number might be closer to
10,000, the report added, citing unnamed sources inside the country. Iran
executed at least 159, and Vietnam at least 64. There were 59 executions
in the United States, down from 65 in 2003.
"It is worrying that the vast majority of those executed in the world did
not have fair trials," the Amnesty International report stated. "Many were
convicted on the basis of 'evidence' extracted under torture."
There was some progress, however. 5 countries abolished the death penalty
for all crimes in 2004 -- Bhutan, Greece, Samoa, Senegal and Turkey. By
year-end, 120 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or
Several countries in practice observe a moratorium on executions. A law
implementing this came into force in July 2004 in Tajikistan. Last January
President Aksar Akayev of Kyrgyzstan announced that a moratorium on
executions, in place since 1998, would be extended for another year. Other
countries in the same position include Malawi and South Korea.
As well, Amnesty International released a study on constitutional
provisions precluding the death penalty. Turkey prohibited the death
penalty in its constitution in 2004, as did Belgium last February. Other
countries with recently enacted constitutional prohibitions of the death
penalty include Ireland and Turkmenistan.
The large numbers of executions in China has drawn criticism, but the
country's leaders seem unfazed. According to an Associated Press report
March 14, China's premier, Wen Jiabao, stated that his nation has no plans
to abolish the death penalty, though it will carry out reforms to ensure
that it is used prudently.
On March 20 the London-based Sunday Times drew attention to the execution
methods used in China. Sentences are carried out in "death vans" parked
near the courtrooms, where lethal injections put the condemned to death.
Authorities prohibit any pictures of the death vans in operation, but the
Sunday Times managed to obtain a photograph of one of them.
"After judgment is pronounced the criminal will be taken somewhere near
the court, normally within 10 minutes' drive," said a policeman quoted in
the article. "He will then be transferred to the lethal injection van.
It's all over very quickly." The Sunday Times noted that a rare newspaper
account of an execution on Jan. 19 in Liaoyang, a provincial capital, said
that the convicted man, Li Jiao, was dead within 14 minutes of sentence
The vans are a relatively new means of execution. In the past, sentences
were carried out by means of a single shot to the back of the head, and
the families of the dead were sent a bill for the bullet. The death
penalty, even though under challenge, will likely continue for some time.
(source: Zenit News)
Cotler says Mugesera won't face death penalty
The Supreme Court of Canada says Leon Mugesera helped incite the slaughter
of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda in 1994 and should be sent
home to face trial.
But Justice Minister Irwin Cotler says Canada will not order Mugesera
extradited unless it gets a binding assurance he will not be executed if
convicted of the crimes.
Last month, Rwandan authorities said they would forgo the death penalty in
Mugesera's case. His lawyer in Canada, Guy Bertrand, argued that sending
him back would lead to his execution.
Cotler says Mugesera can still appeal to the immigration minister to
remain in Canada on humanitarian or compassionate grounds.
Mugesera has lived in Quebec for more than a decade.
(source: CBC News)
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