After Lethal Injection

The following piece was published in June 2015.
Three states, three ways to kill a human being.
The Supreme Court is expected to declare any day whether the injection of a drug called Midazolam violates the Eighth-Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Given the difficulty of procuring other suitable drugs, states devoted to the death penalty are lining up alternative ways to efficiently end human life. In Oklahoma (48 prisoners on death row), the answer seems to be nitrogen gas, a method favored by some proponents of assisted suicide but not something that has been employed in an execution chamber. Utah (nine on death row) proposes to revive the firing squad. Tennessee (67 on death row) is preparing to fire up its electric chair. Decisions, decisions. The Marshall Project took a closer look at the thinking that goes into the logistics of execution.
“A Perfect Killing Device”
As its fight to preserve lethal injection is decided by the Supreme Court, Oklahoma already…

Former French Minister Robert Badinter Optimistic for End of Death Penalty

Former French Justice Minister R. Badinter
Under the patronage of HE Dr. Talal Abu-Ghalazeh, former French Minister of Justice HE Mr. Robert Badinter expressed his belief in the trend towards the universal abolishment of the death penalty.

In his seminar organized at the Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Knowledge Forum, Mr. Badinter spoke with passion and unwavering hope that "young students and a new generation will see universal abolition" of the death penalty.

He based his optimism in the evidence that more and more nations worldwide are moving towards abolition - in law, or in practice.

Beginning with a personal anecdote, Mr. Badinter outlined his commitment to abolition as stemming in large part from his experience as a defense lawyer for individuals sentenced to death. In his words, "to see a man who you have defended taken to the guillotine, a living man cut into pieces while alive - once you see that, it is decided forever."

Mr. Badinter moved next to analyze the overall trend towards abolition. He started with Europe, where "the situation is very simple: death penalty is banned in every state except one... [Belarus], which is the last Stalinist state in Europe." Mr. Badinter pointed out that it is no coincidence that the only state in Europe to allow executions is additionally the only non-member state of the Council of Europe. To join the European Council, Belarus is urged to interdict the death penalty as a prerequisite for membership.

But Europe wasn't always so opposed to the death penalty. "Let's be plain," said Mr. Badinter, "Europe has been a continent loaded with the worst crimes, especially in the Second World War." This bloody history is exactly what has turned Europe towards abolition, in a vow never to return to such barbarous ways.

Moving to the UN, Mr. Badinter underlined the moratorium against the death penalty, which has more support with each passing year. The moratorium supports abolition on the basis that the death penalty is inhumane, susceptible to error, and useless in combating crime.

Mr. Badinter focused especially on the latter two points, which he described as facts that, at their core, are not theological, philosophical, or moral matters. In every trial there is the question of judicial error, as "justice is human, and humans can always fail in their judgment." But the irreversible nature of execution unfortunately means that many exonerations awarded following a death sentence have been posthumous.

While discussing the third argument for abolition, which holds that capital punishment is necessarily ineffective at thwarting crime, Mr. Badinter brought in the example of the United States. The only country in the Americas to carry out executions in 2013, even the US is moving towards abolition, as "in the past 6 years, 6 states have given up the death penalty" lauded Mr. Badinter.

Additionally, he highlighted, those states that continue to practice the death penalty are mostly in the south, and were most notably those that wanted to keep slavery. From this point, Mr. Badinter identified three factors that affect whether or not an individual being tried in one of these states will be sent to death row: racism, which Mr. Badinter describes as "one of the worst poisons that can alter the human soul"; social inequality, as the strong defense that is needed in capital cases does not come cheap; and the "lottery which goes with justice", which includes a wide variety of external factors.

Thus, Mr. Badinter stressed, "all the poison of a society comes out in the decision to condemn to death penalty", which is visible in the disproportional assignment of the death penalty to black males as opposed to white males in the US.

In the Q&A period, HE Mr. Sufyan al-Hassan, Director of Research and Information for Jordan's House of Representatives, brought up a conundrum currently facing the members of parliament: the Constitution of 1946 clearly states that Jordan is a country whose religion is Islam, meaning that it cannot issue laws contrary to Islamic Sharia law, which supports the death penalty in certain, severe cases.

To this, Mr. al-Hassan suggested the "universal abolishment of the execution of the death penalty", the same view held by HE Dr. Abu-Ghazaleh, who stated in the seminar's opening that "being in prison forever is like a death sentence, with the label on your head that you should die - and that is enough."

On a similar note, Mr. Badinter concluded his presentation with a last appeal for abolition: "We are all sentenced to death, all of us; it is only a question of time. Therefore we do not have to take the place of fate or of God."

Source: AG-IP news, June 12, 2014

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After Lethal Injection