Thursday, September 22, 2011

Troy Davis Executed

On 21st September 2011, at 23h08, in Jackson, Georgia, the 42 year old Afro-American, Troy Davis, was put to death.
In 1991 he was condemned to death for the murder of a white policeman in 1989. There was no physical evidence that he had committed the crime, nor was the weapon ever produced. His condemnation followed the evidence of 9 witnesses who identified him as the murderer. 7 of these witnesses later retracted their evidence, some of them saying that their evidence was given in response to police persuasion. The identification parade was carried out in a way which is no longer tolerated; before seeing the parade, the witnesses had been shown a picture of Troy Davis, and told that this was the man they were expected to identify. Study of witness by identification parade is now known to be a very flawed process.
The standard of evidence in the trial is far short of the standards for capital punishment. In all probability Troy Davis is innocent.
Execution was delayed for four hours until the Supreme Court ordered the lethal injection to proceed. President Obama declined to intervene.
Before he died, Troy Davis declared that the movement to abolish the death penalty will go on. Indeed it will, Troy. This case has shocked many, and may well prove decisive in leading to abolition. In passing, one may pity the wife of the slain policeman who declares her satisfaction that vengeance is achieved.

Comment by Robert Badinter who abolished the death penalty in France

- a judicial assassination
- a stain on US history
- a defeat for humanity
A man has been kept on death row for 20 years; a punishment considered cruel, inhumane, and degrading by the European Court of Human Rights

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Another lesson for Thailand

Once again an illustration of the ill-practice of Thai officialdom in taking US practice on the death penalty as a model.
A stay of execution has been granted to Duane Buck just hours before he was to be put to death in Texas on Thursday.
Mr. Buck, an African-American, was convicted of murder in 1997. At the sentencing, a psychologist who was an expert witness said “yes” when asked if “the race factor, black,” increased the chances that Mr. Buck would again do something dangerous.
In Texas, this is a pivotal question: if the state does not prove “future danger” beyond reasonable doubt, it cannot sentence a convict to death. The prosecution got the answer it wanted. The jury sentenced Mr. Buck to death.
"The gross racism in Mr. Buck’s case is proof again that the death penalty is cruel and unusual because it is arbitrary and discriminatory, as well as barbaric, and must be abolished." (From Editorial, NYT, 17th September 2011)

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Whispers and Rumours

In his annual report on the death penalty Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General, takes note of the recommendations to Retentionist countries, made on the occasion of their Universal Peer Review (UPR) before the Human Rights Council in Geneva. Thailand will undergo such a review on 5th October of this year and its death penalty practice is certain to be raised. There will be two issues, one on continued use of the death penalty, the other on shackling and other abuses of detention for those on death row. Regarding the death penalty an informant in the Rights and Liberties Protection Department of the Ministry of Justice reveals that they have already been instructed to prepare legislation for abolition. Meanwhile the death row of Bang Kwang prison is alive with rumour that shackling will be abolished. If these two tendencies are realised, we can expect Thailand to take the place of honour in next year’s report on the death penalty to the Human Rights Council.