Americas

Viewpoints

The Death Penalty

A masked supporter of death row inmate Stanley “Tookie” Williams marches towards the Governor of California's office in Los Angeles late last month. Williams, the founder of the South Central gang the Crips, will be executed on Dec. 13 unless Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger grants him clemency. (Photo: Hector Mata / AFP-Getty Images)

Today, the United States carried out its 1,000th execution since 1976 — when the Supreme Court lifted a moratorium it had imposed on the death penalty in 1968. Of these, 857 have taken place since 1991. The tally by method: 829 by lethal injection, 152 by electrocution, 11 by gas chamber, three by hanging and two by firing squad. Meanwhile, in Singapore …

“Lethal Landmark for America's Death Penalty”

LONDON — The Daily Telegraph (Conservative), Britain, Nov. 29: Over the past 28 years the United States has on average executed one person every 10 days. And the conveyor belt is so efficient that reports of executions are hidden inside the local papers. Indeed the condemned criminal's choice of menu for his last meal inspires as much interest as the method with which the sentence is carried out … The state of affairs whereby the US is the only Western democracy which routinely executes its citizens goes almost unnoticed outside America itself. Sympathy for the victims of violent crime and a desire for retribution ensure that support for the death penalty runs deep … It says something about the U.S. debate over capital punishment that one of its foremost opponents is British.
—Harry Mount

“The Endless Death Penalty Debate”

COLOGNE — Deutsche Welle (International broadcaster), Germany, Dec. 2: Just hours after Australian drug runner Nguyen Tuong Van was hanged at Changi prison in Singapore, convicted killer 57-year-old Kenneth Lee Boyd was put to death by lethal injection in North Carolina after 11 years on death row for the murder of his estranged wife and her father in 1988 … Two executions in one day, and they're only the thin end of the wedge. The number of executions taking place around the world is unknown, and will remain so. In China, some 3,400 people are put to death every year — that's almost 10 a day … Today's two cases have already triggered renewed debate on the ethics of capital punishment. But this discussion has been going round in circles for decades, without ever getting anywhere. Opinion is simply too divided … In general, those that oppose and those that support the death penalty are pretty much fifty-fifty. It exists in 75 countries, a conditional death penalty is operated in a further 11, while 86 countries have abolished it.
—Peter Philipp

“Against Executions”

SYDNEY — The Australian (Conservative), Australia, Dec. 2: For any state to kill a convicted criminal already imprisoned and incapable of doing further harm, is desperately cruel. It is not an act committed in rage or madness. It is not the act of an evil individual killing for gain or to assuage some appalling passion or prejudice. It is not needed to defend the state against enemies within, or to protect the community against imminent harm. The death penalty is an ineffable act of violence against individuals who are defenseless and, at the end of their lives, utterly alone. And the leaders of countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, from China to Singapore, that allow executions, are deficient in humanity and reason. The death penalty is wrong - no ifs, no buts.

“No Mercy in Singapore”

MELBOURNE — Herald Sun News (Conservative), Australia, Dec. 2: The victim of [Nguyen Tuong] Van's crime — and Singapore's cruelty — will be his devastated mother, left to pick up his cold body at Changi Prison. No last hug, no humanity. Life is too precious to be taken needlessly, on the gallows, a throwback to a less civilised past that degrades all involved. This grotesque, anachronistic method is consistent in suiting the authoritarian mindset that Singapore's modern rulers are yet to break free of. As a deterrent, it is a failure. Singapore has continued to hang criminals at a steady rate, 420 since 1991, a world record for its small population. It is understandable if most Australians are unimpressed by the tears of Van's friends, stories of his humanity, when he was a willing heroin mule whose actions would have spread misery and death. He deserved a severe punishment, a long jail term – but not death. No one does. His killing will not bring back the sons and daughters lost to heroin.

Methods of Execution Used in the United States:

Electrocution: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Firing Squad: Idaho and Utah.

Gas Chamber: Arizona, California, Maryland, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Hanging: Montana and Washington.

Lethal Injection: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delware, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wyoming.

States That Have No Death Penalty:

Alaska, Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

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