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…

South Korean presidential candidate Hong Joon-pyo says he will execute criminals on death row

Seoul, South Korea
Hong says will execute criminals on death row

South Korean presidential candidate Hong Joon-pyo of the conservative Liberty Korea Party said he would revive capital punishment if elected, saying criminals are "going on the rampage."

"Because we no longer carry out death penalty, high-profile murder cases continue, such as the ones involving (serial killers) Yoo Young-chul and Kang Ho-soon," Hong said on campaign trail in Gangnam-gu, Seoul on Sunday.

Although death sentence continues to be handed down by court, South Korea has not executed criminals since 1997. 

It is categorized by global rights watchdog Amnesty International as a country that has "virtually abolished" capital punishment.

Nicknamed "Hong Trump" for his controversial remarks and ultra-conservative vision, the candidate is enjoying growing popularity, with polls putting him at 3rd place with support of around 15 %.

The former state prosecutor and conservative party leader demanded the authorities send jailed former president Park Geun-hye to the hospital, saying she is "said to be in very poor condition" in a detention center.

The former conservative president has been taken into custody since March 31 over a corruption scandal that brought an abrupt end to her 5-year presidential term.

Hong's party was formerly known as the Saenuri Party, founded and named by Park, but rebranded as the Liberty Korea Party since Park's impeachment.

Source: The Korea Herald, May 1, 2017

Will next president re-implement death penalty?

The death penalty reemerged as a hot political issue in Tuesday's presidential TV debate after being shunned by the courts for the past 20 years.

Conservative Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo asked Democratic Party of Korea's Moon Jae-in in the debate on JTBC whether it is legal.

"It is not a matter of being legal or illegal," Moon said. "Although the Constitutional Court ruled the system legal, I personally think it should be abolished. Korea has not enforced the system for the past 20 years, making it practically dead in this country."

Hong replied: "We have not abolished it. We simply did not execute it. The system's absence has fanned criminals like serial killers, making them rampage."

Moon did not back away, calling the death penalty "ineffective" for reining in criminals. "The whole world knows about the system's ineffectiveness," Moon said.

A Hankook Ilbo-Korea Times survey following the debate showed Moon leading the presidential race with over 40 % support.

The death penalty was last carried out on Dec. 30, 1997, under the Kim Young-sam administration, when 23 prisoners were executed. The next president, Kim Dae-joong, did not support the system and never saw prisoners on death row. Following administrations have also kept their distance.

The 1st execution was in 1949 for murder, while over 1,300 people are estimated to have been on death row in Korea. 61 people had a death sentence hanging over them as of February last year.

Non-government organization Amnesty International regards any nation that has not "pushed the button" for 10 years or longer to have abolished the death penalty. It estimates that as of this year, 104 countries have scrapped capital punishment.

Source: The Korea Times, April 27, 2017

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