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

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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: Chang Ho-ling escapes execution

The High Court yesterday commuted to life imprisonment the death sentence handed down to Chang Ho-ling, who was convicted of the murder of his wife and 2 daughters in a case that has wound through the courts for 10 years.

The ruling has sparked controversy and protests from the victims' relatives and the judiciary, along with members of the public, who believe life imprisonment is too lenient.

Chang, now 49, was found guilty of using ether to asphyxiate his wife, Tsai Ting-yu, and their 2 young daughters at their home in New Taipei City in 2006, then tampering with the crime scene to make it look like suicide through gas poisoning. After a forensic investigation pointed to murder, Chang confessed.

Chang had been carrying on an extramarital affair with a woman surnamed Su, who reportedly advised Chang to do away with his wife and daughters to start a new life with her, and in an effort to please his new lover, Chang filmed the killing of his wife for Su to watch, the courts found.

As the case went through the courts, judges upheld the original ruling of 2 death sentences for Chang for the murders of his daughters and 1 life prison term for murdering his wife.

However, the latest ruling commuted the death sentence because judges said there remains a possibility of Chang's rehabilitation, citing a psychiatric report.

The mother of victim Tsai Ting-yu spoke out yesterday to condemn the judiciary.

"The judges were too lenient on Chang," she said. "Before, the ruling was always the death sentence. Now all of a sudden it has changed to a life sentence. We cannot accept it and we will appeal this decision."

She broke down in tears when talking to reporters.

"For 10 years, I have attended all the trial hearings. It has drained my mind and taken a toll on my failing health. I cry every day when I think about my daughter and my granddaughters. The sentencing was too lenient. The courts have not given us justice," she said.

Lin Hung-sung, the prosecutor who pursued the case and brought the charges against Chang, also said it was not right that Chang should escape the death penalty.

"I felt very bad today when I heard the ruling. Even I cannot accept it, so how can the victims' families accept this decision?" Lin said. "The ruling must be appealed so justice can be served."

Source: Taipei Times, April 29, 2016

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