The Amicus Journal discusses death penalty issues from around the world. The latest edition contains articles on the "teamwork" approach used by capital defense attorneys in Virginia, Africa's progress in abandoning the death penalty, and a feature on the experience of being a lawyer on the front lines of capital litigation in the U.S. The publication also examines the recent U.S. Supreme Court cases of Medellin v. Dretke and Miller-El v. Dretke. (13 Amicus Journal (2005), published in London by the Andrew Lee Jones Fund). See Resources.
The latest edition of the Consular Rights in America newsletter is now available. The newsletter discusses legal and political developments concerning citizens of other countries who are in prison or on death row in the U.S. Issue 29 contains excerpts from the Texas Lawyer of recent arguments before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in the case of Jose Medellin, a Mexican citizen on death row in Texas. This case has already been the subject of arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court, the International Court of Justice, and of a presidential decision. The newsletter also discusses the decision of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals regarding Osbaldo Torres, a former death row inmate also from Mexico. The newsletter is published by Mark Warren of Human Rights Research.
Qin Yanhong was convicted of rape and murder in China in 1999. A panel of judges sentenced him to death. His conviction was the result of a confession that followed days of torture and interrorgation by police, despite the fact that such tactics are forbidden under Chinese law. The senior detective on the case expressed absolute confidence in the conviction and even offered to accept the punishment if it was proven wrong. In 2001, another man walked into a nearby police station and confessed to a spate of killings and described the murder that Mr. Qin had been accused of in perfect detail. Even then, officials tried to cover up the new revelations and keep Mr. Qin on death row until a reporter heard about the confession by the serial killer. Qin was finally freed in 2002. In 2005 alone, there have been about 12 similar reversals of convictions, including a number for murder.
Taiwan President Chen Shui-bian has vowed to abolish the death penalty so that his country can become a nation founded on the basis of human rights. In making his announcement, Chen noted, "Abolishing the death penalty has become a world trend. Almost every year there is one country abolishing the death penalty. . . . Since I became president in 2000, Taiwan launched the campaign to abolish the death penalty by reducing the handing down and execution of capital punishment, and by making it harder for inmates to receive parole and forcing them to pay more compensation to victims." The number of executions carried out in Taiwan has declined from 32 in 1998 to 17 in 2000 to one so far this year.
As Iraq resumed carrying out the death penalty with the execution of three nationals on September 1, the European Union (EU) expressed its hope that Iraq would abandon capital punishment. In a statement released after the executions, the EU noted, "The EU is of the view that the death penalty does not serve as an effective deterrent and any miscarriage of justice, which might arise in any legal system, would be irreversible. The EU therefore regrets that the government of Iraq has elected to implement the death penalty in these cases. ...The EU is strongly opposed to the death penalty and condemns its use. While recognizing the sovereign right of the government of Iraq to decide on judicial sentencing, we strongly urge that the death penalty should be abolished."
The Cultural Lives of Capital Punishment, a new book edited by professor Austin Sarat of Amherst College and lecturer Christian Boulanger of the Free University in Berlin, examines the complicated dynamics of the death penalty in eleven nations to determine what role capital punishment plays in defining a country's political and cultural identity. The editors note that a nation's values and cultural history influence its relationship with capital punishment.
A new law review article by international death penalty expert Mark Warren concludes that the retention of capital punishment in the United States distances the nation from its closest allies "in ways both symbolic and tangible, and the costs of that isolation are rising steadily." Warren's article, Death, Dissent, and Diplomacy: The U.S. Death Penalty as an Obstacle to Foreign Relations, examines a broad range of concerns, including treaty compliance and global security. Warren notes that in recent years, world leaders have become increasingly vocal about their opposition to the death penalty, and that the U.S. now finds itself on the wrong side of a fundamental human rights issue. Warren notes that some recent Supreme Court decisions narrowing the scope of the death penalty, as well as state efforts to identify flaws in the system, are steps in the right direction.