America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

Taiwan far from reaching consensus on scrapping capital punishment

Premier Simon Chang said Tuesday that there must be a high degree of public consensus before capital punishment can be scrapped, and that he believes society is far from reaching that high degree of consensus.

The premier noted that a lot of people want to scrap the death penalty, but pointed out that it is a punishment stipulated under the law and that to change the law will need "a very, very high degree of consensus among the public."

He noted that since a random killing on a Taipei metro train in 2014, the issue has been repeatedly debated. But it is still very far from reaching a consensus, he said.

His words came as the nation was gripped in shock and anger by yet another random killing of a young victim, a 4-year-old child in Taipei, Monday, and the debate raged again on whether it is right to push for the scrapping of the death penalty, a goal that the nation is heading toward.

Chang has instructed his deputy, Duh Tyzz-jiun, to convene a series of meetings to come up with short-, middle- and long-term contingency plans within one month to address the incident, in a meeting held Tuesday afternoon, Cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said.

In the short term, the Ministry of the Interior has to step up campus patrol and social security. In the mid-term, the Ministry of Health and Welfare must strengthen mental education, pinpoint high-risk mental patients and follow their conditions, and revise relevant laws if necessary.

In the long term, the Ministry of Education must deal with the issue on the family and education fronts.

Meanwhile, President Ma Ying-jeou, accompanied by Chang, went to the victim's home in Neihu District to extend condolences to her family.

Ma has instructed the National Police Agency to step up security to put the nation, as well as the parents of children, at ease following the gruesome killing.

President-elect Tsai Ing-wen laid flowers and a card at the scene of the murder Tuesday.

She said that the nation is in sorrow and feels uneasy.

"This is the time for us to show determination," she said, noting that when the social security net is not sufficient or has holes, the government needs to strengthen it or plug the holes.

"People in Taiwan have the right not to live in fear," Tsai said, adding that "the government must shoulder the biggest responsibility."

Source: focustaiwan.tw, March 29, 2016

Taiwan beheading suspect beaten by angry mob

Taipei (AFP) - A Taiwanese man suspected of decapitating a four-year-old girl was beaten by an angry mob, as the case sparked fresh debate Tuesday about the death penalty for child-killers.

The man grabbed the child as she cycled to a Taipei metro station with her mother on Monday, and beheaded her with a kitchen knife, police said.

The suspect pushed away the girl's mother as she tried to save her daughter. Seven bystanders were also unable to stop the man, police added.

The girl has been identified only by her surname Liu. Local media have used her family nickname "little light bulb".

Police said the suspect, a 33-year-old surnamed Wang, had previously been arrested for drug related crimes and had sought medical treatment for mental illness.

The case, the second child killing in Taipei in less than a year, has sparked widespread public anger and criticism of calls to abolish the death penalty.

Taiwan resumed capital punishment in 2010 after a five-year hiatus. Executions are reserved for serious crimes including aggravated murder and kidnapping, but the political elite is divided over whether or not to retain it.

Parliament says it will on Thursday a review of a bill that would ensure those convicted of killing children under 12 are given the death penalty, or at least a life sentence in the case of severe mental illness.

"I am deeply saddened by the case... (the suspect) should be sentenced to death in the case of a stranger killing a child," said lawmaker Wang Yu-min, who proposed the bill.

Children's welfare group the White Rose Social Care Association is planning to hold a rally in Taipei on April 10 to push for enforcement of capital punishment.

"This kind of random killing shows that Taiwan cannot afford to abolish the death penalty," said chairwoman Eva Liang.

The girl's mother, however, urged the public not to discuss the issue to allow the family time to grieve.

"If you are concerned about us or have sympathy, please respect us... I don't wish to see such discussions at the time being," she told reporters outside a funeral home, also asking people not to circulate photos of the girl's body.

'Stop beating'

Television footage Monday showed dozens of angry people gathered outside a police station in Taipei where the suspect was being held.

Some attacked the man as he was being transferred to the prosecutor's office for questioning. He pleaded with them to "stop beating".

Others came to lay flowers and toys at the spot where the girl was killed and her family held a religious ceremony for her there.

President-elect Tsai Ing-wen who will take office on May 20, also went to the scene to lay flowers.

"This incident deals a big blow to Taiwan's society. Many Taiwanese people are saddened and feel insecure... We should work together so parents don't have to worry and children can grow up safely," she said.

Source: Agence France-Presse, March 29, 2016

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