Looking through Hakamada Iwaos eyes?
Back in 1977 when the punk band The Adverts did their snotty (and excellent) “Gary Gilmore’s Eyes” they were obviously going for a bit of (then very vogue-ish) post-Ramones/Sex Pistols shock value. Strangely enough, thinking about what it would actually be like to be Gary Gilmore, a man who had not long before been executed by firing squad in Utah, USA – was somehow extreme and shocking. Instead, you could argue it was completely rational, just maybe not traditional song-writing material! Anyway, it all comes to mind as today we’ve got the genuinely good news that the US state of New Mexico has become only the second American state to abolish the death penalty since a 1976 Supreme Court ruling granted states the power to execute prisoners. Apart from New Mexico, New Jersey is the other US state to have gone the abolitionist route since ’76 and – as Amnesty USA blogger Brian Evans explains in his post – New York has also effectively had to get rid of its execution apparatus. (In the office this morning we were remarking on the fact that maybe big death penalty users like Texas and Virginia ought to be renamed “New Texas and “New Virginia” …). Closer to home, Sean Hodgson’s case (27 crushing years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit) is relevant to all this. There are plenty of arguments against the death penalty – and we’ll be making them again next week when Amnesty publishes its annual survey of executions around the world – but a “killer” argument is that miscarriages of justice will always occur and people can always be “wrongly” executed. It’s simply not a judicial mistake that you can easily rectify. (If you fancy it, there's more on the Sean Hodgson case from me on the Telegraph blog site today).Even a (relatively) good legal system in the United States hasn’t prevented at least 130 people being wrongly sent to death row in the last 35 years – bear in mind that this is just the official number of people that have been exonerated from death row since 1973 (three or four every year): there could of course be many more Sean Hodgson-like prisoners languishing in death rows in Texas and elsewhere right now. Switching continents, another man who’s currently on death row despite serious concerns about his guilt is the former Japanese boxer Hakamada Iwao. He’s been on death row in Japan for an unbelievable 41 years. Amnesty’s looking for a retrial for him – please take action here. Forty-one years on death row for a crime you may never have committed in the first place. Are we looking through Hakamada Iwao’s eyes?
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.