Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Company We Keep

With 59, the United States ranked fourth among the world's nations in executions last year, according to Amnesty International. The top three nations in executions, according to AI's annual report, were China, with 3400, Iran, which executed 159, and Vietnam, with 64 executions. Bear in mind, this counts only "legal" executions, so if you want to throw in those prisoners of US forces in Iraq who were murdered while in US custody, we could easily leapfrog ahead of Vietnam (it doesn't seem right that such a small country, a former enemy of ours, yet, should rank ahead of us in anything). We can proudly stand ahead of such nations as Saudi Arabia. With the reestablishment in Iraq of the death penalty, one of the proud legacies of our occupation, we can perhaps count on this proud nascent democracy to challenge us in future years.

As a contrast to those 59 executed by the US, AI also points out that in 2004, Ryan Matthews became the 115th prisoner released from Death Row in the US since 1973 because he was innocent. In Matthews' case, an appeal judge found prosecutorial misconduct at his trial (suppression of exculpatory evidence). This, along with inadequate or non-existent defense counsel, is one of the most frequent causes for death penalty reversals in this country. There is no accounting, of course, of innocent men and women who have been executed here.
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