FEATURED POST

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

Image
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…

Japan hanged prisoners days after lawyers’ call for death penalty review

Gallows at Tokyo Detention Center
Gallows at Tokyo Detention Center
The executions of two death row inmates on Friday was a blow to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, which only last week reiterated a call for a moratorium on hangings and for a national debate on the matter.

In a position paper released on Dec. 9, the lawyers’ body urged the Justice Ministry to set up a panel to review Japan’s adherence to an “inhumane” punishment.

On Friday, the JFBA condemned the executions that day of convicted murderers Sumitoshi Tsuda, 63, and Kazuyuki Wakabayashi, 39.

“We strongly protest the latest round of executions,” it said in a statement. “We demand that the government disclose more information regarding the death penalty and start a public discussion on the abolition of capital punishment.”

In its report last week, the JFBA said 140 nations had abolished capital punishment as of the end of 2014, many of them against public opinion. It said Japan’s political leaders should grasp the initiative and not hide behind opinion-survey figures purporting to show greater than 80% support for the policy.

“Examples in other countries show that it is political leadership, not the results of public opinion surveys, that has led to their decision to maintain or abolish the death penalty,” the document said.

It said Britain, France and the Philippines abolished the measure while public support was measured to be 81, 62 and 80 percent, respectively.

South Korea placed a moratorium on the death penalty at a time when 66 percent of the public supported it, the paper said, citing national records and academic studies.

This spring, a pair of researchers concluded that Japan adheres to the death penalty because the government has not tried to gauge public opinion fully, devising questions in opinion surveys that steer replies toward retentionism.

The researchers conducted a survey of their own and found that fewer than 1 in 3 Japanese are committed retentionists.

“Were the government to change its stance on the death penalty, there is reliable evidence that its citizens would follow suit,” wrote the researchers, Paul Bacon of Tokyo’s Waseda University and Mai Sato of Britain’s University of Reading.

They said one factor illustrating the lack of understanding on the issue was that only 51 percent of people surveyed knew that prisoners die by hanging.

This lack of understanding fueled a “public indifference” toward the death penalty, said legal scholar Kana Sasakura of Konan University in Kobe.

“More information on the death penalty should be disclosed to the public, including how the sentences are handed down, how death row inmates are treated, and how they are executed,” she said. Sasakura added, the nation needed greater awareness of global trends and alternative punishments.

Abolitionists say Japan is behind the curve internationally. Fiji, Madagascar and Mongolia are among nations that have struck it from the statute books this year, and even in the United States figures show the trend is toward incarceration rather than execution.

Moreover, they note that the punishment may stand on shaky legal grounds. In 1948, the Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the death penalty. It passed scrutiny, but four of the judges wrote that it “has not been permanently endorsed by the Constitution.” They added, when Japan develops a “peaceful society,” the penalty would probably be phased out.

Source: Japan Times, Alastair Wanklyn, December 18, 2015

- Report an error, an omission: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com - Follow us on Facebook and Twitter

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

Georgia parole board spares Jimmy Meders' life just six hours before he was set to be executed

Iran: Eight Men Hanged on the First Day of the New Year

Execution caught on video in Saudi

Texas executes John Gardner

Singapore | Malaysian human rights group alleges “brutal, unlawful” state execution process in Changi Prison

Florida: Mascotte killer cop’s death penalty appeal denied

Texas to carry out nation's first execution of 2020 for domestic violence slaying in Collin County

Texas: John Steven Gardner scheduled to be executed on January 15

Nirbhaya convicts won’t be hanged on Jan 22 as mercy plea filed: Delhi govt to HC

Execution set for Georgia man convicted of double murder