FEATURED POST

Anthony Ray Hinton Spent Almost 30 Years on Death Row. Now He Has a Message for White America.

Image
Anthony Ray Hinton was mowing the lawn at his mother's house in 1985 when Alabama police came to arrest him for 2 murders he did not commit. One took place when he was working the night shift at a Birmingham warehouse. Yet the state won a death sentence, based on 2 bullets it falsely claimed matched a gun found at his mother's home. In his powerful new memoir, "The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row," Hinton describes how racism and a system stacked against the poor were the driving forces behind his conviction. He also writes about the unique and unexpected bonds that can form on death row, and in particular about his relationship with Henry Hays, a former Klansman sentenced to death for a notorious lynching in 1981. Hays died in the electric chair in 1997 - 1 of 54 people executed in Alabama while Hinton was on death row.
After almost 30 years, Hinton was finally exonerated in 2015, thanks to the Equal Justice Initiative, or EJI. On April 27…

Life imitates drama in corruption case, but is justice served by China's secrecy over the death penalty?

China TV Series
"The TV series corrupt officials can never escape the long reach of the law."
The execution of a former senior Chinese Communist Party official last month could have been lifted straight from the plot of "In the Name of the People", the hugely successful anti-corruption drama that is currently captivating mainland audiences.

Zhao Liping, the former Communist Party Secretary of the Public Security Department of the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, had been convicted of murder, a charge which brought him the death penalty, as well as corruption and other charges. A short state media report on his execution received a flurry of positive reactions on social media. One popular post read, "Wow, this is the real life version of Qi Tongwei!" - a reference to the corrupt and scheming high-level police official in the TV series.

The blockbuster series has quickly become one of the most popular in Chinese television history, in part for its depictions of decadent corruption: senior officials hiding literally tons of cash in luxury villas, top judges sleeping with foreign sex workers, sons of high-ranking officials using political connections to build massive business empires, and networks of corrupt officials suppressing workers' rights by bending the law.

But - spoiler alert - in the TV series corrupt officials can never, ultimately, escape the long reach of the law. All corrupt officials and their family members eventually get lengthy prison terms, and one even gets a death sentence.

At the same time, anti-corruption agents come off as earnest and honest. They are depicted as dedicated in getting to the truth in investigations, no matter how many obstacles they face.

And the highest ranking Communist Party official in the drama, Provincial Party Secretary Sha Ruijin, in a not-so-subtle idealized version of President Xi Jinping, is as determined to crack down on corruption as he is to "Serve the People".

But if Zhao Liping's execution was seen by audiences as akin to the corrupt officials from "In the Name of the People" getting what they deserve, was the case actually as clear cut as the public was made to believe?

No state media reports mentioned the troubling issues raised by Zhao Liping's family and legal team: allegations of torture and other ill-treatment to extract a "confession" used to convict him, the fact that he spent 9 months in detention without ever seeing a lawyer, and evidence of conflicting witness testimonies.

3 witnesses to events in the case identified another suspect, but they were not called to give evidence at Zhao Liping's 1st trial. During the 2nd trial, only 1 witness was called, and he substantially changed his original testimony.

There is more than enough evidence to suggest that Zhao Liping did not receive a fair trial and at the very least should have been granted a retrial.

The fact that state media omitted such serious allegations shows the lengths the government is prepared to go to manipulate public opinion and ensure support for government policies, including those on corruption and the death penalty.

China claims it is making progress towards transparency in the criminal justice system but executions remain shrouded in almost absolute secrecy. The selected cases that receive national media attention almost always serve a political purpose.

As Zhao Liping's case shows, it is hard for the Chinese public to engage in an informed debate on the death penalty since they can only view a scatter shot of cases that make it to the media.

Judicial authorities have a duty to address claims about unfair trials, and especially so in death penalty cases since mistakes can not be rectified. Transparency in the legal process is an essential safeguard of fair trial but in many of these cases important concerns are air-brushed from government narratives.

The clear aim is to skew public opinion and avoid scrutiny of the defects of a judiciary that is not independent but led by the Communist Party.

An exhaustive Amnesty International investigation published in April showed that despite claims of progress towards transparency, China continued to enforce an elaborate secrecy system designed to obfuscate the extent and details of the thousands of executions taking place each year.

Only a fraction of the cases believed to have been conducted were included in the database, including several hundred cases that had been reported in state media.

And so while the public is led to believe that the fight against corruption is as simple as it appears on TV, the reality is very different. Sometimes even a police chief, as seems possible in the Zhao Liping case, is denied a fair trial and is subjected to torture or other ill-treatment.

If the government truly wants people to trust the law, it must end its reliance on fiction when it comes to how the justice system works - and how much it has to progress. Undertaking such transparency really would be "In The Name of the People".

Source: Hong Kong Free Press, June 24, 2017

⚑ | Report an error, an omission, a typo; suggest a story or a new angle to an existing story; submit a piece, a comment; recommend a resource; contact the webmaster, contact us: deathpenaltynews@gmail.com.


Opposed to Capital Punishment? Help us keep this blog up and running! DONATE!

Most Viewed (Last 7 Days)

20 Minutes to Death: Record of the Last Execution in France

New Hampshire Governor Vetoes Death Penalty Repeal

Las Vegas judge signs Scott Dozier’s execution warrant

Anthony Ray Hinton Spent Almost 30 Years on Death Row. Now He Has a Message for White America.

Thailand carries out first execution since 2009

Thailand: Resuming Death Penalty a Major Setback

Texas assures court it can carry out aging death row inmate's execution

Texas executes Dale Devon Scheanette

Nebraska: Court orders correction department to release execution drug information

Thailand: 2nd suspect hunted in wake of Monday's execution