Imagine: a world with no death penalty

The 9th of October is, as any self-respecting Beatles fan will probably tell you, the day John Lennon was born. Had he survived Mark Chapman’s bullets – and another 30 years of rock star fame and turbulence (not to mention ordinary life) – he would have been 70 tomorrow.

Blimey. Dead rock stars never age. It always gives me a jolt to hear this kind of thing. Likewise, had he lived Jim Morrison would be 67. Sid Vicious, if you can imagine it, would be 53. 

Another rock icon – Ozzy Osbourne (age: 61!) – has just done a little tribute to Lennon to mark the 70th birthday that never was. It’s quite a journey from the sonic juggernaut of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid” to his strollsome cover of Lennon’s gentle “How?”, but hey … this is Ozzy! And he’s made some nice comments about how the Beatles inspired him to get into music in the first place. 

But it’s also the Lennon “ideology” that counts for a lot with Osbourne, what he calls Lennon’s “driving force for humanity”. Lennon wasn’t a saint, but he did at least question conventional values and sometimes told it as he saw it. Aha, you’re thinking, was he a revolutionary or a fool? If you’re in Belfast on 20 October you might want to go this excellent-looking event to discuss this very question.

By chance, Lennon shares a birthday with Troy Davis, the man on death row in the US state of Georgia. I’m not sure if Lennon actually ever said what he thought of capital punishment (if you know, please leave a comment) but I’ll bet you my copy of the White Album that he would have been against it. Especially in Troy Davis’ case. No physical evidence linking this man to the crime, a trial with dodgy use of scared and harassed eyewitness, a review process that’s proven harder and harder for his lawyers to negotiate.

Regular readers of this blog (both of you!) will know that I’ve written about Troy numerous times (for example here, here, here and here) but I’m still amazed that a case like this can take someone to the very edge of death in a justice system that claims to be fair. The USA’s capital justice system isn’t fair and given that it’s supposed to end – in some cases – with the controlled horror of the lethal injection chamber, I’d say that it never will be fair.

Meanwhile, though, even supporters of the death penalty ought to be queasy at the prospect of killing a man like Troy Davis. Please add your name to our petition for Troy. It could still help save a man’s life.

To paraphrase John Lennon, if you can imagine a world without the death penalty then you sound like the sort of person who might like to do some of the further actions from an excellent list of 10 that Amnesty has prepared to mark World Day Against The Death Penalty (10 October). That’s 10 for 10/10/10! These include trying to stop Japan executing mentally ill prisoners like Hakamada Iwao, urging Saudi Arabia not to rush into post-Ramadan executions, and trying to prevent Belarus being the only country in Europe to kill prisoners.

So, there’s only one way to end this post. I’d like to say: happy birthday Troy, and happy birthday John. And (forgive me for this!) let’s imagine a world without the death penalty. It’s easy if you try.

 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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