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July 28, 2010

"Japan hangs two, announces review of death penalty"

The title of this post is the headline of this notable press report on death penalty developments in the land of the rising sun.  Here are the detais:

Japan's justice minister, a foe of capital punishment, announced a review of the death penalty Wednesday after witnessing the first executions since her centre-left government took power last year.

The two male convicts hanged were Kazuo Shinozawa, 59, who killed six people by setting fire to a jewellery store, and Hidenori Ogata, 33, convicted of killing a man and a woman and seriously injuring two others.

Keiko Chiba, the first justice minister to personally watch a government execution, carried out at the Tokyo Detention House, afterwards told media she wanted a ministry study group to review the practice. "I confirmed the executions with my own eyes," said Chiba. "It made me again think deeply about the death penalty, and I once again strongly felt that there is a need for a fundamental discussion about the death penalty."

She also said she would open up death chambers to the media for the first time -- though not on execution dates -- to expose to public scrutiny the mechanics of a process that has long been shrouded in secrecy....

More than 85 percent of the public support the death penalty, according to a Cabinet survey carried out in February. Japan has often been criticised internationally for its use of the death penalty, and the fact that death row prisoners and their families are not told about the execution date in advance.

The country last executed prisoners exactly a year earlier, when the conservative Liberal Democratic Party still ruled the country, putting to death three inmates including one Chinese national, also for multiple murder.

When the centre-left Democratic Party of Japan took power last September, ending more than half a century of conservative rule, it said it favoured public discussion on the death penalty. The new government also sent a signal by appointing Chiba -- then a member of the Japan Parliamentary League against the Death Penalty -- as justice minister, while largely avoiding open debate on the issue....

The latest hangings left 107 people on death row in Japan.

July 28, 2010 at 10:09 AM | Permalink


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Dare I say that if you don't want to dance at the end of a rope, don't kill other people?

Posted by: Federale | Jul 28, 2010 2:22:05 PM

The idea that the death penalty is headed for abolition in a country where 85% of the people support it is beyond preposterous.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 29, 2010 8:32:50 AM

The 85 percent figure comes from a "Cabinet survey." So maybe it's accurate, maybe it's not.

Either way, what's truly preposterous is indulging Old Testament mob sensibilities -- or merely impulsive, essentially thoughtless responses of the masses to complex life-and-death questions -- as an acceptable facet of democracy.

I mean, wouldn't The Gong Show's applause meter have been just as meaningful?

Posted by: John K | Jul 29, 2010 1:29:08 PM

John K --

Death sentences in this country take roughly twelve years between imposition and carrying out, most frequently with multiple review in state and federal court.

If that's your definition of "impulsive," I need to buy you a new dictionary.

The truth is that there is nothing LESS impulsive in American law than the death penalty.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 29, 2010 10:35:33 PM

And yet, after multiple reviews in state and federal courts, inmates nonetheless are somewhat routinely exhonerated after languishing for years or decades on death row.

Impulsive was the term I used to characterize responses folks routinely give to pollsters. Whether the state should be in the business of killing people is a serious question. Do you honestly believe off-the-cuff responses from poorly informed, busy, distracted folks should determine whether we, as a society, should put fellow human beings to death?

To me, the weakest case for the DP is the existence of polls suggesting the folks all for it. By and large, the folks are morons.

Posted by: John K | Jul 29, 2010 11:55:11 PM

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