In Focus, World

USA: Blind justice

Since 1976 and the reintroduction of the death penalty in the United States (it was abolished in 1972 by the Supreme Court for being considered anti-constitutional), 1,171 people have been sentenced to Death Row in prisons all over the country; over 464 of those cases occurred in the State of Texas. This accounts for nearly 39% of the total number of executions.

Rick Perry is the current Governor of Texas and has signed more than 200 execution certificates since 2001, when he was appointed. One of the latest to be sentenced to Death Row in this State was convicted offender David L. Powell, executed last June after enduring a sentence of over three decades.

He was described by one of the psychiatrists with him before his death, as a person who was “able to retrace the steps of his immoral past with great clarity and wisdom”.

Data from the “Death Penalty Information Centre”, USA, indicates that, before the reintroduction of the death penalty in the USA in 1976, Texas carried out 755 registered executions.

By taking a closer look at this fact, it can be deduced that in 131 years, between 1845 (the year in which Texas joined the rest of the Federal States) and 1976, less than half the number of executions occurred compared to the following 34 years when the death penalty was reintroduced up to 2010.

In 2009 there were more than 3,000 convicted prisoners sentenced to death in the 35 States that still apply the death penalty, 678 of which were from California, followed by Florida (402) and Texas (358).

The “Death Penalty Information Centre” indicates, with specialised reports and information, that the argument of those who defend capital punishment for considering it to be a deterrent does not bear true since, for example, in 2004 there was a proportional drop in figures between the number of people executed and the number of murders committed.

Furthermore, the Centre explains that various reports from people from academic backgrounds specialised in criminology, reject the idea that the death penalty can act as a deterrent.

According to Amnesty International, it is a common occurrence to find cases where people who have been executed were mentally ill, minors, convicted offenders who did not receive an adequate defence attorney or convicted and sentenced to death even though there was not solid evidence supporting the case. Besides, a report made in 1993 from the Judicial Subcommittee of Civil and Constitutional Rights of the USA indicated that since 1973, more than 120 people sentenced to death were pardoned and allowed to walk free after having been proved innocent. Other investigations carried out assure that since 1900, 23 innocent people have been executed.

The case of Troy Davis

Like so many other convicted offenders, the American citizen Troy Davis has spent 19 years on Death Row in the State of Georgia, waiting for “justice” to be carried out.

In the last two years, he has been appointed three different dates for his execution, even though there are many doubts about his conviction.

For example, the majority of the witnesses withdrew their statements as the firearm used in the murder was never found and there is no physical evidence that links Davis with the crime.

With that in mind, last August, the judge rejected a new plea of innocence and indicated that the accused had to prove his innocence.

Since January last year up until October of this year, 2010, 29 people have been executed in the USA and before the year’s end, 14 more are foreseen to be put on Death Row.

(Translated by  Piers Jarvis – piersjarvis@hotmail.com)

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