California: With state executions on hold, death penalty foes rethink ballot strategy

California advocates of abolishing the death penalty got a jolt of momentum in March, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he would not allow any executions to take place while he was in office.
But after trying twice this decade to persuade voters to end capital punishment, they have no plans to go to the ballot again in 2020. Rather than seeking to build on Newsom’s temporary reprieve for Death Row inmates, activists are taking their own pause.
Grappling with the legacy of their two failed initiatives, advocates are reassessing their strategy and retooling their message. Natasha Minsker, a political consultant who has long been involved with abolition efforts, said the governor’s moratorium has given advocates the opportunity to do long-term planning.
“There’s this excitement and energy in our movement that we haven’t had in a long time,” Minsker said.
Newsom’s executive order caught many Californians by surprise. Although he supported the unsuccessful ballot measures to abolish t…

Nine films on death penalty to be screened in Tokyo

Execution chamber
at Tokyo Detention Center 
Nine films from Japan and abroad on the theme of capital punishment will be screened consecutively at a movie theater in Tokyo's Shibuya district over a 1-week period from Feb. 2, with a series of talks also scheduled.

Movies shown at Eurospace for its "Death Penalty Movie Week" include the screening of "Serial Killer," a 1969 documentary film on Norio Nagayama, who was hanged in 1997 for fatally shooting 4 people when he was a teenager, and the 1958 French movie "Elevator to the Gallows."

Movies from Bolivia, China and South Korea will also be shown.

The screenings, of 3 to 4 movies a day, will be accompanied by talk sessions with guest speakers including Yoshihiro Yasuda, a Tokyo-based lawyer leading the anti-death penalty campaign in Japan, and Shoji Sakurai, who was falsely accused in a high-profile 1967 murder case and acquitted more than 40 years later.

The event is organized by Forum 90, which has campaigned for terminating capital punishment since 1990, under the main title of "Crime, Punishment and Forgiveness."

"Most people in Japan support the death penalty without knowing its realities, as information about capital punishment has not been fully disclosed in this country," said Masakuni Ota, a member of Forum 90. "We expect this film festival to provide an opportunity to understand parts of the secret system."

Secrecy surrounding executions in Japan has come under strong pressure at home and abroad, as inmates are not told when they will be executed until the actual day, and their family members and lawyers are only informed of their deaths afterward. It also remains unclear what criteria authorities use in deciding on when death-row inmates are to be executed.

The United Nations adopted a resolution in December calling on countries such as Japan that conduct executions to impose a moratorium on the death penalty and disclose information about the practice. Given that 80 % of its people express support for capital punishment in opinion polls, Japan voted against it.

The upcoming movie festival is the second of its kind. The organizer held a first film week on the death penalty in February last year, screening 10 films, such as "Death by Hanging," directed the late Nagisa Oshima, and drawing around 1,400 viewers.

According to Amnesty International, the death penalty has been abolished in 140 countries by law or in practice, while 58 countries, including Japan, maintain it.

Source: The Mainichi, January 27, 2013

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