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…

Japan: Man hanged as secretive executions continue

Gallows at Tokyo Detention Center, Japan
Gallows at Tokyo Detention Center, Japan
Secretive executions can’t hide the fact that Japan is on the wrong side of history when it comes to the death penalty, Amnesty International said after a death row inmate was hanged on Friday.

Kenichi Tajiri, 45, was executed at Fukuoka Detention Centre in the early hours of Friday. He was sentenced to death in 2012 for two murders committed in 2004 and 2011.

“The death penalty never delivers justice, it is a cruel and inhumane act. The Japanese government cannot hide the fact that it is on the wrong side of history, the majority of the world’s states have turned away from the death penalty.”

The execution is the third to be carried out in Japan in 2016 and the 17th under Prime Minister Abe’s government.

The hanging comes a month after the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations formally adopted a policy calling for an end to the death penalty. Among other things, the lawyers’ group highlighted the risk of wrongful convictions and the lack of evidence that the death penalty reduces crime.

“Instead of signing further death warrants, Minister of Justice Katsutoshi Kaneda should listen to the many voices opposing the death penalty, such as the United Nations and these respected lawyers, and work to end its use in Japan,” said Hiroka Shoji.

Secretive executions

Executions in Japan are shrouded in secrecy with prisoners typically given only a few hours’ notice, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families, lawyers and the public are usually notified about the execution only after it has taken place.

Secret executions are in contravention of international standards on the use of the death penalty. This and the lack of other adequate legal safeguards for those facing the death penalty in Japan has been widely criticized by UN experts.

This includes defendants being denied adequate legal counsel and a lack of a mandatory appeal process for capital cases. Several prisoners with mental and intellectual disabilities are also known to have been executed or remain on death row.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, the guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the offender or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Source: Amnesty International, November 11, 2016

Japan executes inmate for murdering two women

The gallows at Tokyo Detention Center, as seen from the viewing gallery. 17th executions in Japan since December 2012.
The gallows at Tokyo Detention Center, as seen from the viewing
gallery. 17th execution in Japan since December 2012. 
TOKYO — Japan executed a death row inmate Friday, the Justice Ministry said in announcing the 17th execution in about four years since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power in December 2012.

The ministry said Kenichi Tajiri, 45, was hanged for killing two women in two murder-robbery cases in Kumamoto, southwestern Japan. The latest execution is the second involving an inmate who was sentenced to death in a lay judge trial. Japan’s lay judge system, in which three professional and six lay judges hear a case, began in 2009.

This was the first execution ordered by Justice Minister Katsutoshi Kaneda since he assumed his post in August, with the number of death row inmates in Japan now standing at 128.

“This is an extremely cruel case in which the precious lives of the victims were taken for selfish purposes,” Kaneda told a press conference, adding he gave the order after careful consideration.

According to the finalized ruling, Tajiri killed Chizuko Nakatsu, 49, during a robbery in Uto, Kumamoto Prefecture, in March 2004, in which he stole about 180,000 yen in cash, and murdered Yoshiko Migita, 65, and seriously injured her husband during a robbery in Kumamoto city in February 2011 in which he stole about 100,000 yen.

The justice minister said in an interview shortly after he took office that the issue of the death penalty needs to be handled carefully as it involves the taking of human life, but also noted that court judgments must be strictly carried out in a nation governed by law.

Kaneda’s predecessor as justice minister, Mitsuhide Iwaki, ordered four executions in the 10 months he was in office, including that of the first person to be convicted in a capital punishment case that went before lay judges.

In October, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations issued a declaration proposing the abolition of the death penalty by 2020 for the first time as the organization.

Source: Japan Today, November 11, 2016

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