« "Open to the public: U.S. Supreme Court should allow broadcast of oral arguments" | Main | "Improving Prison Oversight to Address Sexual Violence in Detention" »

July 7, 2009

A worldly perspective on different execution methods

This BBC article, headlined "Top Indian court upholds hangings," highlights that, outside the United States, not everyone believes that lethal injection is the only way to carry out an execution:

India's Supreme Court has rejected a petition to replace hanging with lethal injection as the country's sole method of execution. The court said there was no evidence to suggest that hanging was less painful. Activist Ashok Kumar Walia had argued that hanging was a "cruel and painful" method of execution and should be replaced by lethal injection.

Indian authorities say the death penalty is rarely carried out and is usually reserved for serious cases. Apart from a single execution in 2004, there have been no executions in the country for the past 10 years.

"How do you know that hanging causes pain? And how do you know that injecting the condemned prisoner with a lethal drug would not cause pain?" Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan was quoted by the Times of India newspaper as saying.

Justice Balakrishnan and Justice P Sathasivam said that experts believe that hanging - meant to dislocate the neck and sever the spinal cord -- caused instant death.  "Many countries, still practising death penalty, have various methods of execution -- death squad which guns down a condemned prisoner from close range, hanging by the neck, electric chair and by injecting a lethal drug. "In India, we have a very, very liberal sentencing system based on a humane law.  The courts in the rarest of the rare cases award death sentence," the newspaper quoted the judges as saying.

July 7, 2009 at 10:16 AM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference A worldly perspective on different execution methods:


"outside the United States"

Is there a state where a condemned can't choose to die by lethal injection? I thought Nebraska was the last one, and their SC struck down use of the electric chair.

Posted by: . | Jul 7, 2009 10:41:12 AM

Interesting, yet another country with a robust legal tradition to add to the pro-DP list. India might not be a developed country industrially or educationally, but the same can hardly be said for their legal system. Are there other Commonwealth nations that still execute, however rarely?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 7, 2009 11:55:36 AM

Soronel Haetir --

I do not know of any other Commonwealth nations that have the DP. Japan and South Korea have it, however, further sinking the argument that the US is the only nation in the developed world still to use capital punishment.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 7, 2009 12:06:05 PM

Bill Ottis,

I find India a better example because their legal traditions stem much more from western ideas than Japan or South Korea. Not sure what traditiont Singapore draws on.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Jul 7, 2009 12:34:32 PM

South Korea has a moratorium on executions.


Posted by: . | Jul 7, 2009 2:00:03 PM

Hanging and the firing squad still seem to me the best methods. They require no specialized technology, and it seems the methods developed to replace them are no more reliable.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Jul 7, 2009 3:35:11 PM

"South Korea has a moratorium on executions."


The death penalty has not been carried out in South Korea in the last few years, but there is no legal bar to it whatever. Infrequency of use is not a moratorium.

By way of illustration, the death penalty also has not been carried out frequently in many states of the United States since it was re-instituted in 1976, but no one thinks these states have a "moratorium."

Examples: Over the last 33 years, the following states, which no one claims have a DP moratorium, have used that punishment infrequently:

Wyoming - 1 execution
Idaho - 1
Colorado - 1
Tennesee - 5
Kentucky - 3
Pennsylvania - 3
Montana - 3
Nebraska - 3
Utah - 6

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jul 7, 2009 5:28:01 PM

About 90% of us will have a prolonged, humiliating, painful death. Most of us have not been convicted of a murder. So, William Wallace's death by torture over hours, depicted in the movie, Braveheart, it is less cruel than that of the average person. The insistence on a perfect, painless death, even for a second, privileges the murderer. This insistence is a pretext for abolition. Even if the method were to become an euphoric death by a heroin/cocaine injection, the abolitionist lawyer would not be satisfied. He would say, those substances are illegal. Pretext is lawyer bad faith, and should result in the loss of the lawyer license.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jul 8, 2009 7:11:53 AM

Post a comment

In the body of your email, please indicate if you are a professor, student, prosecutor, defense attorney, etc. so I can gain a sense of who is reading my blog. Thank you, DAB