FEATURED POST

The Aum Shinrikyo Executions: Why Now?

Image
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 …

Even in the deep red South, death sentences are on the decline

Mississippi's death chamber
Mississippi's death chamber
Twenty years ago, a brutal murder in a red state like Mississippi would likely guarantee a death sentence for a defendant. But as last week’s sentencing of Scotty Lakeith Street illustrates, juries in the South and across the country continue to shift away from capital punishment. In 1997, four people in Mississippi were sentenced to death; last year, 2016, not one person was. Street was sentenced to life without parole for stabbing retired teacher Frankie Fairley to death in 2014. The jury in Street’s trial, faced with a choice between the death penalty or life in prison, couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict, and split 10–2.

Fairley’s murder was undeniably tragic — that much was not up for debate. But Jackson County District Attorney Tony Lawrence’s recounting of the gruesome details wasn’t enough to convince all 12 members of the jury that Street deserved to die at the hands of the state.

Those that opted for life without parole may have been swayed by Street’s extensive history of mental illness. As reported by WLOX, jurors heard testimony from his sister that Street had “been institutionalized so much, it’s beyond my count.” Street’s lawyers also presented testimony from a mental health provider who explained that Street suffered from schizophrenia and “needed to be in a group home with a caregiver.” Street was also reported to have displayed “bizarre behavior,” including “putting plastic bags on his head to keep his brain from leaking out and running naked in public with objects tied to his scrotum.”

This is far from the first time testimony about a defendant’s mental illness has informed a jury’s decision to oppose a capital sentence. In 2015, a Washington state jury chose a life sentence for James McEnroe, who was convicted after killing six members of his girlfriend’s family. Jurors who chose the life sentence pointed to his documented “mental health issues” as one of the reasons they chose to spare him from the death penalty. That same year, Colorado jurors sentenced James Holmes to life without parole, after her shot twelve people in an Aurora movie theater. A juror told the Denver Post that “the issue of mental illness was everything for the one [juror] who did not want to impose the death penalty.” Across the country, the mental illness of defendants has increasingly become reason not to impose the death penalty.

Though the U.S. Supreme Court bars the death penalty for those with intellectual disabilities, that legal definition is fairly narrow and does not bar the execution of many mentally ill people. A 2017 study from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill found that 43 percent of prisoners executed between 2000 and 2015 were diagnosed with mental illness at some point in their lives.

Mental illness aside, death sentences are on the decline across the country. Last year, 30 people were sentenced to death in the U.S., while in the mid-1990s, more than 300 people received capital sentences. That decline in popularity is reflected in Street’s case, as well as in other Mississippi capital cases. Though the death penalty’s legality remains alive and well, juries across the country are rejecting it.

Source: Injustice Today, Rebecca McCray, August 10, 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)

Texas: With a man's execution days away, his victims react with fury or forgiveness

Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles rejects clemency for Chris Young

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

Execution date pushed back for Texas 7 escapee after paperwork error on death warrant

The Aum Shinrikyo Executions: Why Now?

Indonesia: Gay couple publicly whipped after vigilante mob drags them out of beauty salon

Fentanyl And The Death Penalty

Utah to seek death penalty for parents charged with killing daughter, covering her in makeup

Scott Dozier case: Hours before execution, judge in pharma company suit halts use of drug

Texas executes Christopher Young