Hakamada Iwao is on death row in Japan. Japan’s policy is to execute by hanging in secret. Prisoners are typically given a few hours notice, or none at all. Families are only notified after the execution has happened.
This means Hakamada has spent 43 years not knowing if today would be his last.
However, once you start reading Hakamada’s story, the sad fact is that his story almost sounds commonplace. He was beaten during his interrogation and that was why he signed his “confession”. The latest DNA evidence undermines the evidence linking Hakamada to the murders. One of the judges who originally convicted him has stated publicly that he believed Hakamada was innocent, but that he was out voted by the other judges.
Ok, I hear you say, sure there are issues around Hakamada’s conviction, perhaps we shouldn’t put him to death, but what about those child rapists and murderers?
I’ll start firstly by saying that I am a mother and have two young boys. My fierce motherly instinct kicks in every time I hear those stories, much as I expect it does to anyone out there who isn’t a crazy psychotic child rapist. You can’t imagine anything worst than to hear that that has happened to your child.
Yet, how can we be sure?
The wrong person could be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and we would kill them just for being unfortunate. Let’s not forget that that person is probably also someone’s son or daughter, someone’s brother or sister, someone’s father or mother.
I hear you though, let’s say we actually catch them in the act, or something equally as damning.
What are you trying to achieve? Will it make you feel better if you kill that person? I’ll be honest here, probably. If some person had done something horrible like that to one of my children, it will sure as hell make me feel better if I kill them. However, what we are trying to do here is find a suitable solution for all criminals.
The death penalty just simply doesn’t work.
A child rapist has deep seeded psychological issues. The threat of being put to death is not going to stop that person raping children. The same with murderers. The murders that are committed under passion or some other strong emotion, those people don’t stop to think about anything, let alone what would happen if they get caught. The ones that are planned meticulously (i.e. cold blooded, pre-meditated murder), well they are planning them meticulously, they don’t expect to get caught. So the death penalty isn’t going to magically improve society. It will not stop these violent crimes from happening. It is the old clichéd ambulance at the bottom of the cliff scenario.
The death penalty cannot always get it right.
Everyone agrees that the justice system, despite our best intentions, is flawed. There is widespread systemic discrimination, corruption at all levels, inconsistencies just simply because we are human. Every day we hear of someone that has been released after years of being in prison because of new evidence… and yet we think it is ‘good enough’ to base someone’s death on? I’ve rambled enough now, i’ll end with a quote from Governor Pat Quinn… I think that it says exactly what I am trying to
“The evidence presented to me by former prosecutors and judges with decades of experience in the criminal justice system has convinced me that it is impossible to devise a system that is consistent, that is free of discrimination on the basis of race, geography or economic circumstance, and that always gets it right.”
– Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois, USA
- Send a letter to Keishu Tanaka (Minister of Justice in Japan) and Mr Hideto Mitamura (Ambassador Embassy of Japan in Wellington) to urge them to reconsider Hakamada’s case
- Read a great op-ed by Widney Brown (Amnesty International’s senior director of International Law & Policy) on why the death penalty is obsolete.