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EDITORIAL: Better leave death penalty hanging


EDITORIAL: Better leave death penalty hanging

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THE VERDICTS ARE IN and two men were recently sentenced to death by hanging. Carlton Junior Hall and Jamar Dewayne Bynoe were both found guilty of murder in separate cases. In either case, the jury rejected their defence. The judges pronounced the capital sentence.

There were instant shouts of praise, particularly from relatives in Bynoe’s case which had attracted national attention given that there were six victims in the Campus Trendz tragedy.

Some people suggest that the decision would bring closure for relatives of the victims. Yet, for those who seek retribution or vengeance, they may be disappointed. The judges’ last sombre words did not bring the story to an end. 

To the dismay of some, it is very unlikely either Hall or Bynoe will ever swing from the gallows. Capital punishment is more theory in Barbados than practice. It is not just about the decisions of the Privy Council and its landmark case of  Pratt & Morgan, but a series of other circumstances.

There are hemispheric and international conventions that have virtually outlawed the death penalty, seeing it as cruel and repugnant. Barbados subscribes to most of those conventions and cannot breach them. But, even beyond these conventions, implementing the death penalty will always be a lengthy and unsure actuality. The appeals process can also be costly to the state.

Relatives of victims and proponents of the death penalty will argue that this form of justice is neither cruel nor unusual. They can easily pinpoint the savage circumstances inflicted on the deceased and can also argue that this form of punishment had been used over many years, even if with clear biases, especially against the poor.

The debate over capital punishment is an emotional and longstanding one, and there is unlikely to be any immediate end, especially following any upsurge in serious violent crimes. That is why we need to face reality based on the internationally available statistics which highlight that capital punishment is not any greater a deterrent to crime than any other forms of punishment. Life without parole may indeed be more excruciating.

We cannot ignore that only 25 nations worldwide carried out executions last year, with Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia accounting for almost 90 per cent of known executions. China does not give figures.

The global shift on the death penalty is significant. When the United Nations was established in 1945, only eight countries had abolished the death penalty for all crimes; in 1996, the figure stood at 39. Today, that number has risen to 102, with more planning to follow suit.

Regrettably, the debate about the death penalty often comes down to either those seeking reprisal or soft-hearted liberals. So while there may be good reasons to retain the death penalty, there are equally compelling ones to abolish it.