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July 12, 2007

If we really want to deter government corruption...

should we consider following China's lead, as reported here by Reuters:

China on Wednesday hailed the swift execution of the nation's former drug safety chief as a warning to corrupt officials while detailing a web of graft that thrived for years without punishment. Zheng Xiaoyu, former head of the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA), dominated television and print news a day after he was executed for taking some 6.5 million yuan ($850,000) in bribes to let medicine companies slip past his regulatory net.

The People's Daily, voice of the ruling Communist Party, said the punishment was intended to deter other wayward officials.  "Corrupt elements will be thoroughly investigated no matter who they are, how high their post, or how deep they hide, and there can be no appeasement or softness," the newspaper said.

Notably, the Chinese legal system certainly made sure Zheng's sentence was not only severe, but also swift: Zheng "was sentenced on May 29 and his appeal was heard last month" and the execution was carried out this week.

July 12, 2007 at 12:05 AM | Permalink


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Somewhere between Sweden's recognition of an inalienable right of prisoners to have pornography and China's system of the corrupt executing the corrupt is a happy medium.

Posted by: | Jul 12, 2007 1:54:50 AM

I sure wish we could execute the likes of Joseph Smith that fast.

Posted by: William Jockusch | Jul 12, 2007 3:03:59 AM

There is nothing inherently incompatible with letting white collar prisoners have pornography, and then executing them.

Posted by: S.cotus | Jul 12, 2007 6:35:21 AM

Mr. Jockusch,

I'm sure you didn't mean what you said. But I would think that someone who believes in justice, as evidenced by your reading of Mr. Berman's blog, would be offended at the thought of executing someone simply for holding unpopular beliefs. Disagree with the likes of Joseph Smith all you want, but it is our (Yes, I am a Mormon) Constitutionally protected and God-given right to believe and worship as we see fit.

And we believe it is the right of all Humankind to believe and worship at they see fit, whether they do so as Christians, Muslims, Buddists, Atheists, etc.... I thank God every day that I live in a nation where that right is protected, and I will stand up for that right so others, whether they believe as I do or not, can hold unpopular beliefs without running the risk of suffering execution or other criminal sanctions.

Craig Pankratz
[email protected]
Baylor Law School, Class of 2008

Posted by: Craig Pankratz | Jul 12, 2007 12:29:48 PM

Craig, I think he might be referring to the Joseph Smith who kidnapped, raped, and murdered Carlie Brucia in Florida.


Posted by: Kent Scheidegger | Jul 12, 2007 2:12:32 PM


THANK YOU FOR CLEARING THAT UP! I guess that's what happens when the founder of your church has such a common name.

If that's the case Mr. Jockusch, please disregard my comment. And I apologize.


Posted by: Craig Pankratz | Jul 12, 2007 2:23:57 PM

And if only we could have executed all these people quickly: The Innocence Project.

My guess is that in about 5 years, maybe a little more, when The Innocence Project uncovers 1000 wrongful convictions, the death penalty will be dead, and our current blind faith in government, something our Founders warned us about, will end.

The days of an infallible executive branch, state and federal, are over.

Posted by: George | Jul 12, 2007 3:01:38 PM

The death penalty will not be dead in 5 years.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 12, 2007 3:43:07 PM

Maybe a little longer, whenever The Innocence Project tags 1000 exonerations.

Posted by: George | Jul 12, 2007 3:46:12 PM

My guess is that in about 5 years, maybe a little more, when The Innocence Project uncovers 1000 wrongful convictions, the death penalty will be dead, and our current blind faith in government, something our Founders warned us about, will end.

Some of the innocence project's targets are actually exonerated. Others get released because the IP merely convinces a judge to order a new trial after 20 years, and the prosecution doesn't think it can resurrect a stale case after that much time. So the people are released, and the IP claims credit for another "exoneration."

Also, people who believe in the death penalty don't necessarily do so out of blind faith in the government. Rather, they disagree with death penalty opponents about what an acceptable error rate might be. As Prof. Berman has repeatedly noted on this blog, DP opponents should be more concerned with the way non-capital sentencing is carried out.

Unfortunately, that sort of thing requires a bit more nuance, and isn't the sort of thing they make movies about.

Posted by: | Jul 12, 2007 3:51:24 PM

"acceptable error rate might be."

'Nuff said.

Most people do not think any error rate is acceptable when it comes to executions. That's where the blind faith in government comes in. They believed the propaganda that NO innocent person was ever executed.

Wrong, and the voters are starting to realize that.

I agree with the Professor on non-capital cases, but the death penalty matters because no punishment is "excessive" when compared to it. It's good to know our president now thinks some sentences can be excessive despite him having killed so many people.

Posted by: George | Jul 12, 2007 4:20:48 PM

No George, it's not "'nuff said". The criminal justice system is a human system. There will be error. And while the possibility of error is an argument against the death penalty, it also argues against harsh punishments, as people's lives are ruined by those as well. And yeah, I know that "death is irreversible", but so is 20 years in the pokey. Moreover, a person can die in the pokey, and a wrongfully convicted person may never be proven innocent. If I were an innocent person convicted of a crime (or a guilty one with an argument), I'd want to get the death penalty--why? More people would pay attention to my case (see, e.g., Troy Davis).

George, we have to live in the real world. But we should never be afraid to look at innocence.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 12, 2007 5:29:37 PM


Your spin machine is broken, federalist. No worries though. If you rush it into the Federalist Society right now, before this new terrorist scare drops from the headlines - and everybody goes, "Huh? Scooter who?" - you can get a 100% discount.

Posted by: George | Jul 12, 2007 7:33:07 PM

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