Among the Lowest of the Dead: The Culture of Capital Punishment (Law, Meaning, and Violence)

Essay on Capital Punishment
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mail.botanix.co.il/handbook-of-multicultural-school-psychology-an-interdisciplinary.php During the period of the Revolutionary War, capital punishment apparently was widely accepted— documented executions took place in the eighteenth century. At the end of the war, 11 colonies wrote new constitutions, and, although nine of them did not allow Cruel and Unusual Punishment , all authorized capital punishment. In , the First Congress enacted legislation that implemented capital punishment for the crimes of Robbery , rape, murder, and forgery of public Securities.

The nineteenth century saw a dramatic increase in the use of capital punishment with 1, documented executions. The death penalty continued as an acceptable practice in the United States for some time. In , a national Moratorium was placed on capital punishment while the U.

Supreme Court considered its constitutionality. In , it appeared that the Court had put an end to the death penalty in the case of furman v. Ed 2d , declaring certain capital punishment laws to be unconstitutionally cruel and unusual because juries were applying them arbitrarily and capriciously.

Among the Lowest of the Dead: The Culture of Capital Punishment

Among the Lowest of the Dead: The Culture of Capital Punishment (Law, Meaning, And Violence) [David Von Drehle] on uxisebep.ga *FREE* shipping on. Among the Lowest of the Dead. The Culture of Capital Punishment. David Von Drehle. "Perhaps the finest book ever written about capital punishment" —The Chicago Tribune. Description Law, Meaning, and Violence. Recently updated and.

It seemed as if Furman would mark the passing into history of capital punishment in the United States. By , Georgia, Florida, and Texas had drafted new death penalty laws, however, and the U. Supreme Court upheld them. Of the nine justices, only two, william j. Capital punishment had survived, and so had the controversies surrounding it. Although the U. Supreme Court has held that the Constitution permits the use of capital punishment, decisions on this issue have divided the Court and have done little to convince opponents of the death penalty that it is fair.

Critics have argued that the death penalty is a form of cruel and unusual punishment, that it is applied in a racially discriminatory manner, that it lacks a deterrent effect, and that it is wrong. The Eighth Amendment of the U. Constitution prohibits the government from inflicting "cruel and unusual punishments.

Congressman william smith of South Carolina foreshadowed the controversy to come when he stated that the wording of the Eighth Amendment was "too indefinite. Whereas some argue that the phrase "cruel and unusual" refers to the type of punishment inflicted such punishments as the severing of limbs, for example, would almost certainly be considered cruel and unusual , others feel that the phrase refers to the degree and duration of the punishment. The U. Supreme Court has rejected both interpretations, leaving the death penalty a legal means of punishing certain criminals.

In , the state of Florida executed year-old Ted Bundy. Bundy confessed to 28 murders in four states. During his nine years on death row, he received three stays of execution. In a country where some 70 percent of the population favors the death penalty, many people may feel that Bundy got what he deserved.

A further question, however, is whether U. When a single sentence of death can cost millions of dollars to carry out, does it make economic sense to retain the death penalty? At first glance, the costs involved in the execution of an inmate appear simple and minuscule. The actual execution of an inmate is quick and simple; the capital punishment system is far more complex. To resolve issues of unconstitutionality that the Supreme Court found in furman v.

Capital trials are much more expensive to carry out than are their noncapital counterparts because of the price at stake, the life of the accused. Evidence gathering is also more expensive: evidence must be collected not only to determine the guilt or innocence of the accused but also to support or contradict a sentence of death. Appeals of a death sentence guarantee great expense to the taxpayer, as the state pays both to defend and to prosecute death row inmates. Public defenders in such appeals openly admit that their goal is delay, and prosecutors and state attorneys slow the process by fighting access to public records and allowing death row defendants to sweat out their cases until the last minute.

Abolitionists believe that the existing system cannot be repaired and must be abandoned. The alternative sentence, life imprisonment without Parole , achieves the same result as capital punishment, they argue.

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Like the death penalty, a life sentence permanently removes the convict from the community against which he or she committed crimes. And it is far less expensive. A twenty-five-year-old woman convicted of first-degree murder would need to serve a life term to the age of before the costs of incarcerating her would surpass those of executing her.

Other studies have reached similar conclusions. According to a study by the Indiana Criminal Law Study Commission released in , executions cost the state 38 percent more than the costs of keeping an inmate incarcerated for life. Not only are the costs of execution excessive but so too are the time delays. It is not unusual for an individual to wait on death row for more than ten years. In the case Lackey v. Texas , U. Although his motion was denied, Justices John Paul Stevens and stephen breyer admitted that the concern was not without warrant. Opponents of capital punishment point out that abandoning the death penalty would make available many millions of dollars as well as thousands of hours that the courts could allocate to other aspects of the criminal justice system.

The amount of money necessary to execute a single inmate might be used to put several criminals behind bars for the remainder of their lives. Supporters of capital punishment agree with detractors on one issue: the death row appeals process is far too complex and expensive. However, while opponents of the death penalty use this as a reason to reform sentencing, supporters use it as a reason to reform the system of appeals. Supporters argue that thorough reform of the appeals process would free up as much money as abolishing the death penalty; expenses could be cut while capital punishment is retained.

Immediately following the execution of Bundy, Chief Justice william h. Noting that the Supreme Court had turned down three emergency appeals by Bundy in the hours just prior to his execution, the chief justice said, "Surely it would be a bold person to say that this system could not be improved. In a interview, President bill clinton , a staunch supporter of capital punishment, called the appeals process ridiculous and in need of reform.

Clinton, like other supporters of the death penalty, saw appeals reform as paramount if capital punishment is to be efficiently and effectively carried out. Supporters also argue that too many rights are provided to death row inmates. The appeals process is too kind to convicts, they argue, and ignores the pain that persists in the aftermath of the criminals' actions. Family members of victims of capital crimes are expected to wait years, while perpetrators abuse the system to forestall execution of the sentence imposed.

In addition to the president, the nation's highest court sides with those who support capital punishment. Under the leadership of Chief Justice Rehnquist, the Supreme Court has moved to limit the number of appeals a death row inmate may file, arguing that endless appeals serve only to undermine the ability of the state to carry out its constitutionally sanctioned punishment. Gold, Russell. The New York Times August Cruel and Unusual Punishment ; Due Process. The Fifth Amendment seems to supply a clearer basis for assuming the constitutionality of the death penalty.

This amendment states that no one shall be "deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law. In Furman , the justices who found the death penalty to be unconstitutional pointed to the language of the Eighth Amendment as the basis of their decision. Here are the lawyers, on both sides, who dedicate their lives to saving or ending the lives of the accused.

Here are the judges who pass the sentences and the politicians who pass the buck. And here are the inmates, staring at their walls and looking death in the face. Acclaimed as one of the most powerful books ever written about crime and punishment in America, it is certain to shock both you.

Read this book; by all means read this book. Get A Copy.

Death penalty in America

Mass Market Paperback , pages. Published June 1st by Fawcett first published More Details Original Title. Other Editions 6. Friend Reviews. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Among the Lowest of the Dead , please sign up. Be the first to ask a question about Among the Lowest of the Dead. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. I just finished reading this book as an ode to my recently departed mentor and mother, Dr Scharlette Holdman, who spent her entire life fighting for the abolition of the death penalty.

The book provides details of how the death penalty was fought in the US, and in that respect is an excellent history, but with it having been less than a week since we lost Scharlette, I want to focus on her. Scharlette's life and work reminds me when it comes to fighting injustice, numerical advantage can be made I just finished reading this book as an ode to my recently departed mentor and mother, Dr Scharlette Holdman, who spent her entire life fighting for the abolition of the death penalty.

Scharlette's life and work reminds me when it comes to fighting injustice, numerical advantage can be made to seem meaningless. The response of the state, to suggest that she was running a slick well-oiled machine is testament to her efforts, that one woman, with a ledger and a phone could take on the establishment. Later, when her work was formalised, to keep up her pace of work and activity, it took 22 lawyers and 13 investigators to mimic what she brought to the work. Finally, the book helps us to understand the human suffering that accompanies working for the cause of justice.

I was glad to see recognition by the author that such dedication results in personal trauma, often to those we love most. Scharlette recognised the harm and toil the work had on her personal life, and yet now that she has passed, all that remains are fond memories of a warrior who gave everything she could, and literally left nothing that she could not do, even into the last days oh her terminal illness. I'm glad there is recognition of her contribution in this book, but I hope that someone will write a more complete account of her life, as I would love for others to be touched by the mercy that she was, in part of the way that I was blessed.

View 1 comment. So I plunged into this book only because Ted Bundy was spoken about. Yes, I didn't even bother to read the synopsis, I simply read it because while researching Bundy I found he was written about a bit here. I looked the book up in Google Books and searched the specific pages Bundy was mentioned in, but afterwards I was forced to read the whole book because a the premise was interesting and b I had to read the whole thing anyway to understand why Bundy was being discussed in the first place.

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T So I plunged into this book only because Ted Bundy was spoken about. The book deals with the problems the Death Penalty carried in Florida in the eighties and nineties. It's excellently researched and is educational and entertaining in an intellectually stimulating way. It paved the way for a standpoint different than mine: I was for the death penalty, and still am after reading this, while von Drehle makes a case against the death penalty. I do recognise there are moral, legal and ethical issues regarding the death penalty. I recognise the problem that executing one criminal costs far more than keeping various criminals alive, and I even urge the government to seek solutions for this.

However, these legal and ethical implications do not stop me from being for the death penalty regarding vile scumbags like Bundy and Dahmer. What I want is solutions. Solutions so forensic science can help identify the true perpetrators of murder and prove beyond unreasonable doubt their guilt. Solutions so innocent men and women are not wrongfully convicted, and solutions so the death penalty does not cost more than keeping convicts alive. Excellent read and very intriguing despite not changing my death penalty stance as it has for many. They are banned from talking to other prisoners.

Contact with the outside world is limited to infrequent and supervised visits from family or lawyers. They are not allowed to watch television or engage in personal interests or hobbies. A radio is permitted but prisoners have no say over the station to which it is tuned.

Some prisons are reportedly allowed videos but this is at the discretion of the prison warden. Prisoners are reportedly allowed three books — although more may be borrowed with the express permission of the prison warden who checks that the content does not preach "subversion of authority".

Exercise is limited to two short sessions per week outside their cells.

Capital punishment

A number of prisoners reportedly survive the isolation through reliance on sleeping pills. In one example of the treatment of those about to be executed, Akahori Masao, a former prisoner who spent 31 years on death row, described how he was dragged from his cell by five prison guards one morning in the early s.

The guards whispered nervously when they realized they had taken the wrong man. He was returned to his cell and another man was taken away for execution. Another rare insight into death row conditions was provided by the prison diary of Daidoji Masashi who was sentenced to death for his role in the bombing of a Mitsubishi Heavy Industries building in which killed eight people and wounded others.

Daidoji Masashi recorded how prisoners have to sleep under a bright light. He reportedly became ill from mental strain and lack of exercise, and vowed to exercise to maintain his health; guards however prevented him from doing push-ups or stretching exercises in his cell. Any exercise that is perceived to disturb others is not permitted. Most prisoners endure these conditions for many years, in a number of cases for decades, while their appeals make their way through a notoriously slow legal system. Once all appeals are exhausted and death sentences finalized, an execution can take place at any time — all that is required is the official stamp of the Minister of Justice.

The harsh atmosphere on Japan's "death row" often results in despair. Some, such as Takanezawa Tomoaki 30 abandon their appeals despite insisting on their innocence, stating that due to the legal system in Japan, the results of any appeal are a foregone conclusion. Takanezawa Tomoaki's lawyer reportedly claims that his client has become emotionally unstable due to the strain of living on death row. Correction Bureau officials justify such conditions of detention, stating that the system is designed to prevent prisoners from escaping and to "maintain the mental stability of those waiting for death".

In practice the majority of prisoners sentenced to death in Japan are condemned to a lifetime of solitary confinement under the conditions described above. A number of prisoners suffer mental health problems due to the nature of their incarceration. Together, these circumstances — including prolonged use of solitary confinement — amount to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and are contrary to the international treaties to which Japan has agreed. Such conditions of detention may also facilitate ill-treatment by prison guards. Among other recommendations, the Committee addressed the conditions of detention for condemned prisoners:.

In particular, the Committee finds that the undue restrictions on visits and correspondence and the failure to notify the family and lawyers of the prisoners on death row of their execution are incompatible with the Covenant. The Committee recommends that the conditions of detention on death row be made humane in accordance with articles 7 and 10, paragraph 1, of the Covenant.

A new law governing the treatment of prisoners in Japan was enacted in May This law has reportedly broadened the range of visitors allowed to meet detainees awaiting execution, as it includes all relatives, people "necessary" to deal with important matters and those who contribute to the mental stability of detainees. The law provides that other people may also be allowed to visit at the discretion of the head of the detention centre.

Amnesty International welcomes any changes that comply with internationally accepted standards on prison conditions, such as the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. Moreover, while Amnesty International welcomes any changes that will contribute to the mental wellbeing of death penalty prisoners, the organization believes that these changes do not go far enough as they do not address the issue of contact with other detainees, and conditions of confinement such as solitary confinement. Wherever the death penalty is deployed, there exists a risk of the execution of individuals for crimes they did not commit.

Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of possibly innocent people facing the death penalty around the world. Four men, Menda Sakae, Akahori Masao, Taniguchi Shigeyoshi 36 and Saito Yukio 37 , were sentenced to death in Japan on separate charges in separate trials, but were released during the s after it was established they were falsely accused. The four had been tortured or ill-treated during interrogation, and as a result they "confessed" to crimes they had not committed.

These "confessions" were then used as evidence to obtain convictions and death sentences. Menda Sakae was acquitted in having spent 34 years on death row; during this time he had applied for retrial six times before his application was accepted. Akahori Masao see page 13 was sentenced to death in on charges of rape and murder. He had consistently claimed that he was innocent of the charges against him and that he only confessed under duress during police questioning.

In January the Supreme Court acquitted him, ruling that his confession lacked credibility and that no other evidence linked him to the crime. In appealing against his death sentence in the Tokyo High Court in , Akahori Masao stated: "the interrogators hit me on the head, almost strangled me with their hands and kicked me I decided to agree with all their questions because I could not put up with the torture.

The authorities accepted his fourth application, filed in , and his retrial began in October Akahori Masao was 25 years old when he was arrested; when he was acquitted, at the age of 59, he had spent over 30 years on death row. In Taniguchi Shigeyoshi and Saito Yukio, sentenced to death in and respectively, were also acquitted. Since the release of these men, Amnesty International is not aware of any other condemned inmate being exonerated.

The organization is concerned that the lack of exonerations over the past 16 years reflects more the legal system's reluctance to admit mistakes than any legal reform which may have lessened the risk of convicting the innocent. Japanese courts have one of the highest conviction rates in the world. It is reported that around 99 percent of all those accused are convicted. Such a high conviction rate may significantly increase the chances of innocent people being sentenced to death.

The daiyo kangoku substitute prison system, where a police cell can be used instead of a prison for up to 23 days, violates detainees rights and is a breeding ground for further violations, particularly in a justice system that relies heavily on confessions and where forced "confessions" are rarely ruled inadmissible by courts. The government has recently submitted its first report to the UN Committee Against Torture, in keeping with its obligations as a state party to the UN Convention against Torture. In its report the government stated that:.

Reports received by Amnesty International and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations JFBA support the view that the daiyo kangoku system fails to meet international standards on detention. Suspects are continually under the control of the police; there are no rules or regulations regarding length of interrogation, lawyers' access to clients during interrogations are restricted and there is no electronic recording of interviews by police. Amnesty International is concerned that this system is routinely used to obtain "confessions".

The organization has documented a variety of measures which are used to obtain "confessions" and which constitute torture or other ill-treatment, such as beatings, intimidation, sleep deprivation, questioning from early morning until late at night and making the suspect stand or sit in a fixed position. The potential for violations to occur is compounded by the lack of access to legal counsel.

The Japanese Constitution guarantees the right to legal counsel. Article 37 of the Constitution states that: "At all times the accused shall have the assistance of competent counsel who shall, if the accused is unable to secure the same by his own efforts, be assigned to his use by the State. Legal counsel is therefore permitted to meet detainees any time with no limitation on the duration of the meeting time. They are authorized to do this under paragraph 3 of Article 39 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which states that investigators police and prosecutors "may, when it is necessary for investigation, designate the date, place and time of interview".

The right to counsel is thus drastically limited; the JFBA reports that "counsel cannot see the suspect without the prior permission of the investigator in charge". Moreover, although the right to see court-appointed lawyers is provided for in Article of the Japanese Code of Criminal Procedure, this right only applies to those defendants who have been indicted and does not apply to suspects under interrogation prior to being charged.

A suspect's ability to exercise the right to see a lawyer is therefore inadequate, and fails to comply with international laws and standards pertaining to the implementation of the death penalty. International laws and standards are clear that anyone potentially facing a death sentence must be provided with legal assistance for the entire legal process. Amnesty International welcomes an amendment to Japan's Code of Criminal Procedure, which is expected to be fully implemented by the end It will allow suspects who are arrested and detained but not prosecuted to have the right to choose their own counsel at public expense if they do not have the resources to pay for it.

While calling for all prisoners to be brought to trial promptly, Amnesty International believes that these amendments will be beneficial in terms of the fulfilment of the right to fair trial. The organization urges that the measure be swiftly and fully implemented. The concerns expressed above are illustrated by the cases of those under sentence of death in Japan. For example, Hakamada Iwao, now aged 69, has been on death row and held in solitary confinement for over 37 years.

He is reportedly in very poor mental and physical health to the extent that he is unable to recognize close relatives such as his sister. Hakamada Iwao was accused of the June murder of a couple and their two children. He was reportedly interrogated by police for 23 days, during which time he was denied food and water, not allowed to use a toilet and kicked and punched. He also states that he was subjected to sleep deprivation.

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Hakamada Iwao has consistently claimed that he is innocent and was forced to "confess" to the murders. The continued use of the daiyo kangoku system, in a manner that can facilitate torture, ill-treatment and coerced confessions, contravenes provisions in the Japanese Code of Criminal Procedure and the Constitution of Japan. Article 38 of the Constitution states that: "Confession made under compulsion, torture or threat, or after prolonged arrest or detention shall not be admitted in evidence".

Death penalty in the United States: an unbalanced practice

The Human Rights Committee expressed serious concerns around the use of the daiyo kangoku system. InNovember , it stated:. The Committee strongly recommends that the pre-trial detention system in Japan should be reformed with immediate effect to bring it in conformity with articles 9, 10 and 14 of the Covenant. This may increase the chances of abuse of the rights of detainees under articles 9 and 14 of the Covenant. The Committee reiterates its recommendation, made after consideration of the third periodic report, that the substitute prison system should be made compatible with all requirements of the Covenant.

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This suggests that the onus is on the prosecutor to prove that the confession was made voluntarily. The risk of serious violations of an individual's human rights described above is of continuing grave concern to the legal community, both internationally and within Japan. The International Bar Association, supported by the JFBA, issued a report 47 proposing electronic recording of all interrogations carried out by the police and prosecution.

This system would enable courts to assess more accurately to what extent confessions have been coerced or given freely. This would substantially decrease the probability of grave miscarriages of justice such as those highlighted above. Electronic recording would also reduce the likelihood of ill-treatment of suspects by police and protect officials from false allegations of torture and ill-treatment. Amnesty International strongly supports this proposal and urges the government of Japan to introduce this system immediately.

The organization is disappointed that the Ministry of Justice has, to date, not positively responded to this recommendation. Both these bodies would be able to visit all places of detention and all detainees and prisoners, thus providing further safeguards against torture and other ill-treatment. Amnesty International does not seek to excuse the perpetrators of violent crime and recognizes and endorses a government's duty to protect the citizens it serves. However, the organization believes the death penalty is wrong in all cases.

Executions are a symptom of a culture of violence rather than a solution to it. By executing a person, the state commits a premeditated killing and shows a similar readiness to use physical violence as the criminal. Numerous politicians in many different countries and cultures have argued that the death penalty is necessary as a crime control measure, and valued executions for their alleged deterrent effect on criminal acts overall. For this proposition to be true, it has to be believable that violent criminals contemplate the results of their being held accountable for their crimes, and that they then decide that risking being executed is not acceptable, whereas risking a long term of imprisonment is acceptable.

In reality, Amnesty International suspects that few criminals think they will be caught when committing a crime. Therefore, rather than harsher punishments, the best deterrent to violent crime lies in guaranteeing a high chance of capture and conviction through effective policing. Evidence from the USA, Canada and other countries, does not show that violent crime increases in the absence of the death penalty.

In in the USA, the average murder rate for states that used the death penalty was 5. Moreover, in Canada, in — 27 years after the abolition of the death penalty — the murder rate had fallen by 44 percent since before the death penalty was abolished. For over three years between and , there were no executions in Japan. This is partially explained by the fact that the then Minister of Justice, Sato Megumu, refused to sign execution orders because of his religious beliefs.

Senior former officials and hundreds of Diet members also expressed opposition to the death penalty at the time. During this period, there was no increase in the type of violent crime for which the death penalty would have been imposed. Regardless of the nature of the offence committed, a punishment that kills is in itself a denial of the preciousness of life. As a punishment, the death penalty also excludes the possibility of rehabilitating the offender. However, in Japan, as in other countries, 51 some relatives of victims have stated that despite their loss, they do not believe that the death penalty should be used.

This raises persistent questions about the rationale of executions, including whether executing perpetrators brings a sense of closure or satisfaction to victims' relatives. One such case is that of Harada Masaharu whose brother was murdered along with two other people by Hasegawa Toshihiko between and Hasegawa's death sentence was finalised in and he was executed on 27 December Harada Masaharu had petitioned the Ministry of Justice asking for a stay of execution.

He believed that the only way Hasegawa Toshihiko could express remorse and atone for his crime was by living. Harada Masaharu was never informed that Hasegawa Toshihiko would be executed, nor did the Ministry of Justice explain why he was chosen, reportedly stating that they could not discuss an individual case. In an interview with The Japan Times , Harada said that after a number of years he visited his brother's murderer in prison. Despite being able to meet with him a few times, Harada felt they never had time to address the issue of the murder and said the execution left him feeling empty: "the execution didn't help ease the pain of our family".

Supporters of the death penalty in Japan have claimed it is part of country's historical tradition.