The Capital Punishment Debate

The reality is that there are some crimes that are so heinous and criminals who are so devoid of human conscience, that these criminals are beyond any chance of rehabilitation, redemption or safe detention. Such criminals should be sentenced to the maximum penalty available to the law so society can rid itself of the responsibility of safely imprisoning them for the rest of their lives with the concomitant risk of escape or being inadvertently let loose into society.

In an article “Capital Punishment – …..”, Ruth Hopkins argues in the Daily Maverick, that capital punishment is unacceptable because too many convictions are flawed.

The Direct Democracy Forum (DFF) acknowledge this but, rather than toss out capital punishment as an option for the courts to exercise, would rather introduce meaningful legislation to improve the quality of our judicial system and trial, conviction and penalty processes. This would include the following steps:

1) outlaw admissions of guilt, thus all convictions would need to be evidence based and proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

2) eliminate plea bargains or deals between the prosecution and defence admitting guilt to lesser charges in return for lesser sentences, often without a trial

3) all instances of capital punishment would have a statutory three level appeal process, to separately examine a) the trial process for correctness and the evidence for veracity and b) the quality of the defence (was the defence deficient in any way) and c) the appropriateness of the penalty.

These appeals would be heard by higher and separate courts than the trials courts.

4) the state would not defend an accused with public defenders but rather the state would fund the defence by private defence practitioners, selected by the defendant, and deemed competent to mount an adequate and appropriate capital defence. There is in fact an international precedent for this where the defence of Adolf Eichmann was paid for by the state of Israel, to ensure that the defendant was adequately represented, because the defendant could not otherwise afford the counsel of his choice.

5) finally, any verdict involving capital punishment would have to be considered by Parliament, where a statutory bill of clemency would have to be voted on. This would involve all the houses of parliament engaged in the normal legislative process. This would preclude any clemency or concession granted by the State President or any other political figure.

The DDF believe that capital punishment should include sentences exceeding 20 years to life of imprisonment, without the possibility of parole, and of course, the death sentence, but the application of the death sentence would only be administered when the impact of these new prosecutorial limits and the appeal processes were deemed by parliament to have effectively eliminated flawed convictions.

The DDF do not believe that this is all that can be said or should be said about the death penalty and capital crimes and capital punishment, but do however believe, that this is an appropriate position from which to start the debate. The endeavour to ensure that our judicial systems and processes are just and without flaws needs to be an ongoing process of self appraisal and assessment.

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