Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


The only sad news of the night is that California's voters failed to take the opportunity to repeal the state's Death Penalty.

I'm currently reading Clive Stafford Smith's book Injustice, about the case of Kris Maharaj, condemned to death for a murder her didn't commit, and the difficulty of having even clear proof of innocence taken into account by the United States judicial system. It makes grim reading: and of course that one case is merely symptomatic of a system which is unfit for purpose (largely, it would seem, through underfunding which encourages both slipshod work and corruption).

Of course, our own system here in Britain is far from perfect, as the case of Sean Hodgson shows. But at least we no longer have the possibility that someone exonerated will have already been executed.

I keep being reminded of the death penalty whenever I see one of those articles about "what was in the news the year you were born", because in 1955 Ruth Ellis became the last woman to be hanged in Britain so I became very familiar with her picture. Her executioner was Albert Pierrepoint, whose own view on the death penalty he kept to himself until his 1974 autobiography (by which time Britain had abolished it):

"If death were a deterrent, I might be expected to know. It is I who have faced them last, young men and girls, working men, grandmothers. I have been amazed to see the courage with which they take that walk into the unknown. It did not deter them then, and it had not deterred them when they committed what they were convicted for. All the men and women whom I have faced at that final moment convince me that in what I have done I have not prevented a single murder. And if death does not work to deter one person, it should not be held to deter any."

I found this interesting short film about executions at Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow. Well worth quarter of an hour of your time.


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