Cross-posted at DailyKos.

While we remember Pope John Paul II, who convinced a U.S. governor to spare the life of a murderer, Amnesty International notes in its April 5, 2005 report that more people were executed in 2004 — 3,797 people in 25 countries — and at least 7,395 were sentenced to death in 64 countries.

The figures released today are sadly only the tip of the iceberg. The true picture is hard to uncover as many countries continue to execute people secretly — contravening United Nations standards calling for disclosure of information on capital punishment.

Which countries are at the top of the list? (more below, with poll)
From the BBC:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usChina carried out more executions than all other countries combined – at least 3,400 – the human rights group says.

The global rise in executions was “alarming”, said Amnesty’s UK director Kate Allen, who called the figures from China “genuinely frightening”. …

The US came fourth in Amnesty’s table of executions, with 59 in 2004.

Iran came second, with at least 159, followed by Vietnam with at least 64.

The 3,797 executions in 2004 were the second-largest annual total in the last 25 years, the organisation said.

And it noted that its numbers represented the minimum number of executions it could confirm.

“Many countries continue to execute people in secret,” Ms Allen said. ..

My friend J.J. Maloney, a great crime reporter, poet and novelist who died in 1999, wrote a fascinating summation of the history of U.S. executions and judicial decisions:

More than 4,500 people have been executed in the United States since 1930. There is no way of knowing how many have been executed in U.S. history because executions were often local affairs, with no central agency keeping track of them.

In addition to judicially imposed executions,  from 1882 through 1951 there were 4,730 recorded lynchings by vigilantes in the U.S, with many of them being highly public affairs.

Even when miscreants were afforded a trial and executed in accordance with law, such events were often local in nature. For example, while states such as New York electrocuted condemned persons at Sing Sing’s electric chair as early as the late 19th century, in states such as Missouri hangings were conducted at local county jails as late as 1937.

“The capital punishment issue, J.J. Maloney observed,, does not exist in a vacuum — it is part of our national policy toward crime.”

When Caryl Chessman was executed in 1960, the state of Missouri had about 3,300 convicts, and there were only 225,000 convicts in the United States. Today, Missouri has 25,000 convicts, and there are nearly 2 million convicts in the U.S.

This has taken place while crime rates have been dropping (in a period of unusual national prosperity). Like Missouri, a number of states now spend more money on prisons than on higher education.

Eventually the United States will adopt a national policy on the treatment of murderers. When that happens, we will harken back to the 1930s wisdom of Karl Menninger* – that we not waste good guinea pigs.


*J.J. interviewed and spoke with Menninger on a numer of occasions.

0 0 votes
Article Rating