Hang ’em High

I wonder if people like MP Andrew Turner, who support capital punishment, do so with the confidence that they will a) never murder anyone, or b) never be falsely convicted of murder.  If you want no a simple reason to say no to the death penalty, then it’s b.

British history is full of miscarriages of justice: the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four, Maguire Seven, Stephen Downing, Barry George and Stefan Kiszko.  Fortunately they were incarcerated after the death penalty had been abolished in the UK, and most of them lived to see freedom.

Derek Bentley wasn’t so lucky, and over the years of a tyrannical legal system weighted against the poor and the uneducated, many innocent people like Bentley, with severe learning dificulties and psychological problems, were executed.  Many such people are still executed with alarming regularity today in the USA.  Some victims of the death penalty were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The argument for the death penalty according to Leicester city councillor Barbara Potter is:

“I’m a mother myself, so I want to keep them as safe as possible. I believe in an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth and a life for a life.”

With such a bronze-age attitude to justice, Potter would fit better not on the board of a modern British local Police Authority, but as a black-hatted judge in Victorian Britain, or in a modern-day sharia court in Saudi Arabia.

“With all the DNA technology we can be 100% sure that someone is guilty and when we are 100% sure that this man has killed this child and the evidence is there, then capital punishment is appropriate.”

The naivete is staggering.  This idiot shouldn’t be let anywhere near the justice system.  DNA evidence is just that, evidence, and subject to interpretation as part of a wider body of facts to build a case.  There is no 100% certainty.

Add to that the danger of a tabloid media only too quick to convict murder suspects in the pages of their rags, sometimes the only evidence being that the suspect looked a bit weird.

Unfortunately the justice system is just as fallible as it was forty years ago, and the risk of a faulty conviction is always present.  That’s why the death penalty should never be returned.

There’s no walk to freedom from the grave.


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