Death Penalty in the Spotlight as US Woman with IQ of 72 Faces Execution
BYLINE: Carmel Rickard
THE judge contacted several hospitals to help with a case before him: would they carry out a punitive operation and destroy the spinal cord of the accused, he wanted to know.
So far hospitals have refused, but the judge's search continues.
This grotesque story, from Associated Press last week, illustrates the potential reach of a legal approach that requires an eye for an eye and permits physical vengeance against a convicted person.
In this case, from a northwestern province of Saudi Arabia, two men were involved in a fight; one hit the other with an axe and paralysed his opponent. Now the paralysed man has asked that the same treatment be meted out to his attacker and the court is trying to find a way |to oblige.
Punitive mutilation and barbaric acts like judicially sanctioned death by stoning are condemned in democratic countries.
But the list of countries where executions are still routinely carried out includes not only states where Sharia prevails but also some |countries that claim to have a |strong democracy.
One such is Japan, where history was made on the subject this week: the justice minister allowed journalists into an (empty) execution chamber for the first time - Japan's system of judicial executions is known for its intense secrecy - soon after announcing a review of the death penalty.
Apart from Japan only one other G8 country continues to permit judicially sanctioned killings. That country is the US, where according to leading analysts public opinion is almost equally divided on the issue, largely because of concern about innocent people being executed as well as the high costs involved with capital punishment.
Now the US public is being urged to take sides in the debate about an execution scheduled for next month.
Teresa Lewis is the only woman on death row in Virginia, and if she is indeed executed on September 23 she will be the first woman in just 100 years to be put to death by that state. Her predecessor, Virginia Christian, was executed in 1912 at the age of 17.
The judgments in Lewis's case don't make for easy reading: she was found to have organised the murder of her husband and her stepson so that she could collect a $250 000 insurance pay-out. …