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BurtLaw on Capital Punishment
-  LawAndEverythingElse.Com  - Copyright (c) 2006 Burton Randall Hanson

 Execution, Iranian-style. Iran is going to execute a man by putting him inside a sack and throwing him off a cliff. If he survives, he'll be hanged. More (Yahoo/Reuters 07.18.2002). It appears Iran, which is fourth behind our third in the most executions (China and Saudi Arabia are #1 & #2), is trying to beat us in the "most creative method" department. Will they succeed? All I can say is that I wouldn't bet against The Fabulous Bush Boys. (07.19.2002).
 The Fabulous Bush Boys. "There is a scene in The Fabulous Baker Boys where Michelle Pfeiffer, wearing a slinky red dress, uncurls on top of a piano while singing 'Makin' Whoopee.' The rest of the movie is also worth the price of admission. Pfeiffer stars in the film with Jeff and Beau Bridges, who play the halves of a cocktail lounge piano duet. Their act is growing relentlessly more hopeless when they decide to liven things up by hiring a girl singer. The singer is Pfeiffer. Things liven up. " From Roger Ebert's 1989 review in the Chicago Sun-Times of The Fabulous Baker Boys. This last week the Florida Supreme Court issued stays of two scheduled executions in order to conduct a hearing into whether the imposition of the death penalty by judges on the recommendation of jurors violated the recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Ring v. Arizona. While state lawyers unsuccessfully sought an order of the U.S. Supreme Court (more), Gov. Jeb Bush -- who, like his brother, the former Governor of Texas, never saw a death warrant he didn't enjoy signing -- announced that he is gonna keep on signing them (more). As was the case with the Baker boys, their act is growing a little stale, and sensible people are starting to see their sad little act for what it is, cheap politics. As Christopher Hitchens put it in The Nation, "The crudity and the exorbitance of the Clinton pro-death program nationwide, and the vileness of the locally applied Bush regime in Texas [he should have added, "and the Bush regime in Florida"], [have] only succeeded in awakening more widespread misgivings about the random application of the penalty, the increased likelihood of executing the innocent and the nauseating business of killing the underage and the mentally underdeveloped." (More.) (07.12.2002) Further reading: BurtLaw on Crime and Punishment. And, on the subject of cheap politicians, see BurtLaw on Politics.
 Georgia judges: electric chair unconstitutional. Yesterday, the good judges of the Georgia Supreme Court, in Dawson v. State and Moore v. State, ruled by a 4-3 vote that execution by electrocution violates Georgia's state constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. (Yahoo news) As a life-long opponent of the death penalty, I am not heartened by a decision that merely says a particular method of execution is unconstitutional. I oppose the death penalty in all its forms, whether by beheading (the method used by our allies in Saudi Arabia, home of the folks who have financed Osama bin Laden's activities), shooting in the back of the head (the method commonly used by Red China), firing squad, lethal injection, hanging, poison gas or electrocution. Death sentences are known to have been imposed in the following countries and territories in 2000:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Armenia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Congo (Democratic Republic), Congo (Republic), Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Guatemala, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kazakstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Kyrgystan, Lebanon, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Philippines, Rwanda, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tajikstan, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States of America, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Of the judicially-decreed executions last year, 90% took place in "the big four": China, Saudi Arabia, the USA (in 3d place) and Iran. [more]  It is a sad comment on our country that it is allied with these three countries. No, it is a sad comment on our country that it is even on the list of countries that still allow execution. Take a careful look at the list. Most of the countries that have the death penalty are countries you wouldn't want to visit, much less live in. On the other hand, our enlightened Western European allies are uniformly opposed to the death penalty. [more] Indeed, we are pretty much alone among modern civilized Western democracies in our commitment to judicially-sanctioned barbarity. [more] American politicians (Clinton, Gore, both Bushes included), who blather on about being tough on crime, have benefited politically from their support of the death penalty. Shame on them, but a bigger shame on us for being such suckers. I wrote a paper in high school civics against the death penalty; I even corresponded then with Nathan Leopold, Jr., of the notorious Leopold-Loeb Case, whom Clarence Darrow saved from execution [click here to read the summation of his impassioned, eloquent, succesful plea for mercy]. My opposition has only increased as I've grown older. Although Minnesota ain't the state it used to be, fortunately we do not have the death penalty and we have a very good governor, Jesse Ventura, who courageously and wisely opposes reinstatement of the death penalty. And our great former Chief Justice, A.M. "Sandy" Keith, a friend of mine, publicly and courageously declared while he was the chief that he is "unalterably opposed to the death penalty." As a Norwegian Lutheran, I am always amazed that so many people who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ, who was judicially tried, convicted, and executed according to the laws of the realm, support the death penalty. In his plea to the court for Leopold and Loeb, Darrow said, "This is a Christian community, so-called, at least it boasts of it, and yet they would hang these boys in a Christian community. Let me ask this court, is there any doubt about whether these boys would be safe in the hands of the founder of the Christian religion? It would be blasphemy to say they would not." The recently-released Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice, does a nice job of summarizing the Catholic Church's commendable perspective on the death penalty. [more] I am proud to be allied with Catholicism on this issue. (10.06.2001)

 Amnesty International Press Release, dated 07.06.2001:

"At least 2,960 people have been sentenced to death and 1,781 executed in the last three months of  China's 'Strike Hard' campaign against crime," Amnesty International said today. "More people were executed in China in the last three months than in the rest of the world for the last three years."

"Like the other 'Strike Hard' campaigns before it, this crackdown is unlikely to have a lasting impact on China's growing crime problem. The campaign is nothing short of an execution frenzy -- a huge waste of human life," the organization said.

Not for many years have mass rallies and sentencing been seen on this scale. Executions have been recorded all over the country for crimes as diverse as bribery, pimping, embezzlement, tax fraud, robbing of petrol and selling harmful foodstuffs, as well as violent crimes. Hundreds have also been executed for drug offences under the slogan "treasure life, reject drugs."

Most executions take place after sentencing rallies in front of massive crowds in sports stadiums and public squares. Prisoners are also paraded through the streets past thousands of people on the way to execution by firing squad in nearby fields or courtyards. One such rally in Yunnan province was reportedly broadcast live on state television. Rallies in Shaanxi in April and May were reportedly attended by 1,800,000 spectators. Tens of thousands of arrested suspects and thousands assigned to "re-education through labour" without charge or trial have also been paraded at these rallies.

"Strike Hard" was initially targeted at organized violent crime, but national and provincial authorities have greatly expanded its scope for the next two years. Authorities in Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR) aim to "deal a decisive blow to separatist forces, eliminating separatism and illegal religious activities." Many Uighur political prisoners have been executed, accused of "separatism" and a range of alleged violent crimes. In Tibet, one target is those who "guide people illegally across borders."

Guandong and other provinces execute those said to be guilty of economic crimes including tax and financial fraud, currency forgery and "disrupting the stock market." Authorities state that is in order to "tackle the serious economic crime situation before entry to WTO and the challenge of globalization." Several people have been sentenced to death or executed for tax or insurance fraud.

Police and prosecutors have been urged to cut corners, and not to "get entangled in the detail," so as to achieve "quick approval, quick arrest, quick trial and quick results." In Hunan province during a "Spring Thunder" operation from 23-25 April, police boasted of "solving 3,000 cases" in two days. In Sichuan province, police reported they had "cracked" 6,704, cases including 691 murders, robberies or bombings in six days from 19 -24 April, apprehending 19,446 people.

At meetings to prepare for "Strike Hard," lawyers were reportedly called on to coordinate with the police and prosecution, and not to hold up the judicial process. Courts have also boasted of their speed and "special procedures" during "Strike Hard."

Courts in Shandong province reportedly held an average of 65 criminal trials every day from 10 April to 25 May. Courts in Suqian City, Jiangsu Province, reported new procedures under which they completed full judicial proceedings in an average of 20 days, an example widely promoted in the official media. In such circumstances, periodic official reminders that death penalty cases should be "iron clad" are empty rhetoric.

"Curtailed procedures plus great pressure on police and judicial authorities mean that the potential for miscarriages of justice, arbitrary sentencing and the execution of innocent people is immense," Amnesty International said.

Amnesty International is appealing to the Chinese government to end its spiraling use of the death penalty and to replace this callous and counterproductive policy with more effective and humane criminal punishments, in line with global trends.

(The figures above fall far below the actual number of death sentences and executions in China and are based on public reports which Amnesty International has monitored. Only a fraction of death sentences and executions carried out in China are publicly reported, with information selectively released by the relevant authorities. National statistics on the use of the death penalty remain a state secret.)

Note: for more on the topic of crime and punishment, click here.

Announcement. We've finally gotten around to launching our new webzine/blawg: BurtLaw's The Daily Judge:

It is not an online newspaper and is not affiliated with or intended to be mistaken for any existing or previously-existing newspaper or journal. Rather, it is a so-called "blawg," a law-related personal "web log" or "blog," one with a subjective, idiosyncratic, and eccentric sociological and social-psychological slant that focuses not on the latest judicial decisions of supposed great importance but on a) the institution of judge in the United States and in other countries throughout the world, b) the judicial office and role, c) judicial personalities, d) the great common law tradition of judging as practiced here and throughout the world, e) judges as judges, f) judges as ordinary people with the usual mix of virtues and flaws, etc. We link to newspapers and other sources in order to alert the reader to ideas, articles, stories, speeches, law books, literary works and other things about "judges" that have interested us and that may interest the reader.

We don't promote our blawgs, but readers of this blog and of our affiliated political opinion blog, BurtonHanson.Com, may be interested in it. We don't think there is another blawg quite like it.