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The Aum Shinrikyo Executions: Why Now?

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With the execution of Aum Shinrikyo leader and six of his followers, Japan looks to leave behind an era of tragedy. 
On July 6, 2018, Japanese authorities executed seven members of the religious movement Aum Shinrikyo (Aum true religion, or supreme truth), which carried out the 1995 Tokyo subway sarin attack and a series of other atrocities. None of the seven of the executed men were directly involved in releasing the gas on that tragic day; four of those who did remain under a death sentence, and their executions may be imminent.
The seven executed were involved in planning and organizing the various crimes committed by Aum. Asahara Shoko (born Matsumoto Chizuo), was the founder and leader of the movement, having developed the doctrinal system instrumental to Aum’s violence and its concept of a final cosmic war of good (Aum) against evil (the corrupt material world and everyone — from the Japanese government to the general public — who lived in it). Asahara is believed to have given …

Justice Breyer and the Death Penalty

Justice Stephen G. Breyer
Justice Stephen G. Breyer
To the Editor:

Breyer Continues His Push Against the Death Penalty” (news article, Dec. 13), about Justice Stephen G. Breyer’s dissenting opinion in the case of Ronald B. Smith, who was recently executed in Alabama, is far too generous.

Twenty inmates have been executed in the United States in 2016. More than half (including a client of mine) have sought last-minute stays of execution from the Supreme Court (as Mr. Smith did). Justice Breyer recorded opposition in only three of these executions.

If Justice Breyer sincerely has constitutional reservations about the carrying out of the death penalty, he should do what other justices have done upon reaching a similar conclusion, by voting to prevent the execution from going forward.

Until his actual voting pattern demonstrates principled consistency, his on-again, off-again critique of the death penalty not only helps sustain an arbitrary system, but it also exemplifies it.

Source: The New York Times, The Opinion Pages, Letter, David R. Dow, December 22, 2016. The writer is a professor at the University of Houston Law Center.

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