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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…

Final appeal relating to Tokyo subway sarin attack dismissed by Japan's High Court

The aftermath of the 1995 Tokyo Subway sarin gas attack that killed 12
The aftermath of the 1995 Tokyo Subway sarin gas attack that killed 12
It has been 21 years since 5 men released the deadly nerve agent in carriages of crowded commuter trains during Tokyo's morning rush-hour.

Twelve people died, 50 people were left permanently injured, and thousands of others were temporarily blinded by the gas.

The perpetrators were all members of a religious cult known as Aum Shinrikyo, which means "supreme truth".

The cult had prepared for the attack at a remote sheep station it owned in Western Australia.

The sarin gas attack in Tokyo is regarded as the first ever use of a weapon of mass destruction in an act of terrorism.

The perpetrators of the crime thought they were carrying out a holy act in line with the beliefs of the doomsday cult.

The prosecutors of the criminal trials believe that day was chosen to divert the attention of police who were planning a raid on the cult's headquarters.

The head of the cult, Shoko Asahara, was found guilty of masterminding the attacks in 2004 and sentenced to death by hanging, but his execution was postponed while the appeals of his fellow criminals were heard.

He is now 61 years old and spends his days in solitary confinement.

Hiromi Shimada, the author of a book about Aum Shinrikyo, said the next question would be when the 13 men facing the death penalty would go to the gallows.

"Since there are so many of them, I think it'll be difficult to execute all of them at once," he said.

"The Minister of Justice has to make the decision but it can't be carried out just by the minister's decision.

"I think the Government has to be involved also, so it's hard to the think the executions will happen all at once."

Cult leader's execution may be delayed


The gas attack crime in 1995 did not turn the cult's followers away from the faith.

Asahara devised the religion in his one-bedroom flat in Tokyo and based his teachings on a mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism and declared himself to be the Christ.

After his imprisonment, Aum Shinrikyo split into 2 distinct groups, and the Japanese Government now regards those groups to be branches of what it calls a dangerous religion.

Some say the execution of the leader Asahara might now be delayed by the Government to prevent him being seen as a martyr by the remaining devotees.

Hiromi Shimada said very little was known about Asahara's condition in jail.

"We hardly hear what's going on inside the prison so I don't know in detail, but his daughter has published a memoir and wrote that perhaps her father has schizophrenia," he said.

"I think his mental condition has become worse over time."

Support for the death penalty in Japan has been falling over the years and there are usually only 2 or 3 executions carried out each year, and those are reserved for criminals who have committed multiple murders.

Asahara and his fellow perpetrators join about 100 other criminals who currently wait on death row.

Source: abc.net.au, September 8, 2016

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