The jury will still be out when it comes to deciding whether capital punishment should be taken off our statute books. In today’s SN we are informed about the commutation of the death sentence for two brothers who were on death row for over 18 years and despite appeals and requests by their attorney it was the UNHRC which concluded in 2004 that their trial had been unfair and recommended “an effective remedy, including commutation of their death sentence.”
Many years ago I had a different view with respect to the abolition of capital punishment compared to today. DNA evidence in the USA has helped to free persons convicted and sentenced to death. And besides the inhumaneness of execution, the possibility of sentencing an innocent person through a jury trial had always been a strong argument for its elimination. Further it is claimed that most murders are not premeditated.
The commutation of the death penalty has spared their lives, but they have a life sentence which some prisoners when released by pardon compare to a death sentence. The victims’ relatives and others may argue that the decision which was originally handed down was supposed to be punitive and was not carried out, but there may be a hidden one of ‘conscience’ which they will have to live with forever.
V O Patrick