30th January 2003

Column 35

I am sure most of you have heard about this poor woman in Nigeria who was sentenced to death for having a baby out of wedlock. She was sentenced to stoning under Islamic law (it is called Sharia Law). The procedure for this is to bury her in a hole in the ground, so only her head is showing. Then the people in the village would stand back and throw stones at her head until she was dead. In what is supposed to be a show of compassion, she had her death sentence put off until her infant baby was weaned. There has been a large show of outrage from around the world because of this woman's situation. Much of the outrage has come from people in the U.S.A..

I suspect most of the Americans who were outraged by this were those who do not support the death penalty, for any reason in the first place. I couldn't help but wonder how many of these people, who thought the woman being sentenced to die for having a child and to die in such a barbaric manner, were people who also supported the death penalty in the U.S.A.. I doubt if these people can see the irony in this. Maybe because they feel the American government kills in a humane fashion. Much of the civilized world sees America death penalty in the same way many Americans see this situation with the Nigerian woman. I think the woman was pardoned, because of the worldwide support she received. I hope so anyway.

The hypocrisy of some Americans is evident in a situation like this. The people who support the death penalty in the USA would think it is barbaric a woman would be sentenced to death, because of having a baby. Although it is okay to have a death penalty in our country. Go figure. For those of you who will inevitably say: "But adultery is different", are missing the point. It isn't the nature of the accusation, but the solution the government has to deal with a crime.

Many of you have heard about the moratorium against the death penalty in Illinois, which had been in place for the last three years. You may have also heard Governor Ryan commute the sentences of all those on the Illinois death row, to Life In Prison Without Parole, in his last days as Governor. There has been a lot in the media about this, so it is hard to have missed it. There are those who support Governor Ryan's decision, but there is also a large segment of people who are outraged he did this. He has been called names and has been blamed for causing more anguish to the families of victims. What I found interesting, in reading and listening to the debate about this, is how the pro death people disregard any explanation Ryan gave for his decision.

Of course, most of those sentences he commuted were those of guilty people, but when he tried to explain why he did what he did, the opposition disregarded what he said. It didn't matter to them that the Governors task force (who had been examining these cases for three years) were unable to decide in many cases, who might be innocent and who were indeed guilty. All the pro death people could say is they were denied justice. I found this interesting. How can justice be denied when these people will never be free and will spend the rest of their lives in prison? It seemed these people didn't care if someone was innocent, all they cared about was the person convicted should be put to death.

One of the interesting facts about innocent people being set free; It seems even though the convicted person was proved innocent through scientific means, or otherwise, it doesn't seem to matter to the pro death people. All that mattered to them was the person who had been convicted was set free, even if it was proved beyond any doubt that the person was innocent. It seems the Prosecutors have these people so brainwashed into believing the person convicted was indeed guilty, that no proof that the person is actually innocent matters. It is sad to see hatred has twisted the thinking of otherwise rational people in such a way that the truth doesn't matter. All they seem to want is their revenge and someone should die for what happened in their individual cases. There was one woman who was outraged that the man, who was convicted in her case, was set free because DNA testing proved he wasn't guilty. She was still very adamant he was guilty and refused to believe anything otherwise.

I think Prosecutors should be ashamed of how they use victims families to further the prosecutors own political goals. They parade the families of victim's out in public everytime there is any controversy about the death penalty. They have these poor people exposing their pain and suffering for the world to see. There doesn't seem to be any point to these people being paraded in front of the camera's, except to distract the public from the facts. Instead of examining the topic in a logical fashion. The essence of the topic becomes one of the victims, rather than someone being convicted for a crime they -didn't commit or misbehavior by the police or prosecutors in getting a conviction.

I thought Governor Ryan had a very good answer when he was asked about the victim's families. He said the legal system is to find justice and it isn't owned by the victim's families to find retribution and revenge. It seems our legal system (who the naive say, is the best in the world) has changed from a system that is looking for justice and has moved into an area where it is supposed to get retribution for the victims. This movement of the legal system has been the goal of the Prosecutors for the last couple of decades and it seems they have done a very good job in conditioning the public into thinking along those lines.

I have written before about how the courtroom is set up to distance the defendant from the Jury. There are also other factors that influence the Jury. In many cases the Judge or Prosecutor will point out to the Jury that the victim's family is in the courtroom and the Jury should not to let that influence the jury's decision. Any reasonable person knows that having the family there during a trial can't help but have an impact on what the jury does and how they think. If not, why would the Judge or prosecutor bring it up in the first place?

The point is, because of the influence these victims groups have on the legal system these days, it is hard to have a fair and unbiased trial. Instead of a trail becoming a matter of deciding the guilt or innocence of a person on trial it has become a vehicle for the victims families to feel that they are getting revenge or retribution. Guilt and innocence becomes a secondary factor during the entire trial.

I know many (most?) of you will not agree with what I have said in this, but I hope you will read it with an open mind. 
I hope to be back to write again soon.
My best to all of you.

Take care,