Death, Again


I’m just a plainspoken Colorado criminal defense lawyer, but the way I see it…

I know I probably write too much about the death penalty here. But we keep killing people with cool deliberation anyway. Hundreds of them every year. And not just in the United States, but in other enlightened nations just like us: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, North Korea — you know, kindred states.

There’s no telling how many people fellow traveler big China executes, because the Chinese government won’t tell.

Yet, the countries busy killing the people who go wrong within their borders are fewer and fewer. Last year only twenty-one countries did that. Still, too many when you’re trying to cut down on the number of deaths you feel personally responsible for. We are personally responsible, every time an ax falls, a trap door opens, or poison is pushed into somebody’s veins, and we change the channel to Married at First Sight.

Every year, Amnesty International puts out a report, Death Sentences and Executions, detailing how we’re all doing. You can get the latest one here.

There is good news there, at least for those of us who cringe at killing people in cold blood. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa there were 46 executions compared to 64 the year before; the statistic may be due to dyslexia. And there’s a steady decline in the United States, with thirty-five souls sent to God to sort in 2014, though three thousand two are on deck, with one more bound to join them in my state any minute now.

We kill them in a variety of entertaining ways. We cut their heads off, hang ‘em high, poison them like rats, and use others for target practice. For some reason, stoning seems to have gone out of style, although the United Arab Emirates keeps a promising southpaw in the bullpen.

Iran, Egypt, and Sri Lanka still sentence children to death. A fair number execute folks who haven’t the mental capacity to understand why they’re being led to their deaths, including, God bless us, America.

In the majority of countries who do this sort of thing, executions are carried out without the pomp and circumstance of anything resembling a fair trial. For these countries, torture seems as good a method as any to extract a confession.

Executions aren’t limited to people who kill people. Drug dealers often qualify. China, North Korea, and Vietnam like to reserve corruption for only the highest levels of government. States execute for armed robbery, adultery (usually just the women adulterers), rape (not to be confused with private executions of women sullied by rape), kidnaping, torture (again a practice reserved for only the highest officials), insulting dead prophets, witchcraft, and sorcery. There are countries who exterminate gay men; just not this year.

Of course, treason against any government that executes its citizens is punishable by…execution.

On the last day of 2014, one hundred forty countries had abolished the death penalty by law or in practice. Fifty-eight — about a third of all the nations of the world — were still putting their people to death.

I reckon I’ll keep writing about the death penalty, time to time, till two hundred countries have abolished it; I’d allow in two more countries to the world if they promised not to kill anyone, just to reach that sweet round number.


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One Response to Death, Again

  1. David Bates 11 August 2015 at 8:53 pm #

    We used to hang them high down here in good old Noo Zealand too Philip. Then, maybe because we started to feel bad about it we stopped doing it, quite a while ago. Anyway, we don’t do it now for whatever reason. Maybe it’s because we just can’t figure out a way to bring them back again after we choke the living daylights of out the wrong person. Why, as a species, do we do it at all? Maybe it’s just because we are flawed. People just love exercising power and control over other people don’t they? Not you, not me. We are much too enlightened. I think maybe the human species was one of Mother Nature’s crook (as in not very good) batches of product sort of thrown together on one of her off days. Let’s face it, she can be a mean old critter! I know the two of us (You, Me) are above all this, but, if I’m being really honest, I guess I have to admit I can have the odd bad day too and, on a real stinker, if pushed, I wonder……….. David Bates

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