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A Mosaic of Traditions - One Virtual Sangha => The Metta Station => News & Current Events => Topic started by: ZenFred on July 24, 2014, 04:34:23 pm

Title: Botched executions in the US
Post by: ZenFred on July 24, 2014, 04:34:23 pm (

Other Buddhists are upset about this too, right? Completely appalling that the majority support capital punishment despite repeated botched execitions that resulted in slowly torturing people to death.

Want a "humane" option for capital punishment? How about a 100 ton hydrolic press instantly on the prisoner's head or a high speed diamond bit industrial drill to the frontal lobes? Or is that too graphic too vividly taking a person's life?
Title: Re: Botched executions in the US
Post by: Dharmakara on July 24, 2014, 06:02:46 pm
Several Buddhist nations have capital punishment, so maybe we should ask them what is more preferable: lethal injection or a single gunshot to the head?

Title: Re: Botched executions in the US
Post by: ZenFred on July 25, 2014, 04:37:27 pm
So is this an issue that the Buddhist community isn't vocal about/united over?
Title: Re: Botched executions in the US
Post by: Dharmakara on July 25, 2014, 05:53:11 pm
No, Buddhists are usually quite vocal about it, but it tends to come across as lip service, especially when you consider the number of countries with a Buddhist majority and the death penalty is still on the books --- there's only a few Buddhist countries that have either abolished capital punishment or currently have a moratorium on executions.

I have left China off the list below because it's questionable whether they have a Buddhist majority, but it should be noted that they execute more people per year than the rest of the world combined.

Bhutan --- No executions on record after 1974.

Cambodia --- Abolished in 1989 by Constitution.

Japan --- Hanging. Prosecutors push for the death penalty only in the case of multiple murders, or single murder with aggravating circumstances. Judges usually impose death penalty in case of multiple homicides. Between 1946 and 2003 766 people were sentenced to death, 608 of whom were executed. For 40 months from 1989 to 1993 successive ministers of justice refused to authorise executions, which amounted to an informal moratorium.

Myanmar --- Death penalty for murder, terrorism, high treason.

Singapore --- Hanging. Death penalty for murder; kidnapping; treason; certain firearm offenses; trafficking in more than 15 grams of heroin or morphine, 30 grams of cocaine or 500 grams of cannabis.

South Korea --- Death penalty for murder. There has been an unofficial moratorium on executions since President Kim Dae-jung took office in February 1998. Three bills to abolish the death penalty are currently awaiting consideration by the Legislation and Judiciary Committee in South Korea's National Assembly.

Sri Lanka --- Death penalty for murder; perjury causing an innocent person to be executed; rape; drug trafficking. Moratorium since 1976.

Taiwan --- Single gunshot to the head or heart. Death penalty for treason; espionage; hijacking; murder; robbery with murder, rape, or arson; piracy; kidnapping. Between 2006–2010 death sentences were not carried out. Executions resumed in 2010. On 3 May 2011 Taiwan removed the death penalty clauses from its Military Law statutes.

Thailand --- Death penalty for regicide; sedition or rebellion; offenses committed against the external security of Thailand; murder or attempted murder of a foreign head of state; bribery; arson; rape; murder with intent; kidnapping; robbery resulting in death.

Vietnam --- Lethal injection. Death penalty for treason; taking action to overthrow the government; espionage; rebellion; banditry; terrorism; sabotage; hijacking; destruction of national security projects; undermining peace; war crimes; crimes against humanity; manufacturing, concealing and trafficking in narcotic substances; murder; rape; robbery; embezzlement; fraud.
Title: Re: Botched executions in the US
Post by: Dharmakara on July 25, 2014, 06:21:17 pm
By the way, here's an article of current events in Thailand, where the recent rape and murder of a 13-year-old girl on a Bangkok-bound train has given rise to calls for a mandatory death penalty for rapists: (

Title: Re: Botched executions in the US
Post by: Monkey Mind on July 25, 2014, 07:01:32 pm
So is this an issue that the Buddhist community isn't vocal about/united over?

This place is hardly a representative sample of "the Buddhist community".

But this article gives me hope: (
Title: Re: Botched executions in the US
Post by: Dharmakara on July 25, 2014, 08:05:36 pm
And who exactly is in the position to state what is or is not a representative sample of "the Buddhist community"?

By the way, that's a very good article you provided a link to --- it would certainly throw a monkey wrench into carrying out executions by lethal injection, but as the article pointed out there are other methods, whether people have the stomach for it or not.
Title: Re: Botched executions in the US
Post by: Wonky Badger on July 27, 2014, 02:30:02 am
I have a hard time understanding how any civilized country in this modern world could allow capital punishment. Every time I see the public calling for the execution of some criminal to serve "justice", it reminds me of the times when witches were burned.

What kind of arguments do Buddhist countries use to justify capital punishment?
Title: Re: Botched executions in the US
Post by: Dharmakara on July 27, 2014, 07:38:04 am
Asia is no different than Western countries in this regard, where vengeance certainly plays a part, but so does a deep seated fear that a sentence of "life in prison" will eventually be commuted at some point down the line --- for example, here in the US, jurors are usually kept in the blind about the number of years that would be served if they have a choice of returning a verdict of life imprisonment instead of the death penalty:

What guidance should be given capital juries in deciding whom should be sentenced to die? In particular, what should capital juries be told concerning what might happen to a defendant in the event they do not sentence him to die?

How this latter question is answered may be of particular concern to the capital defendant. The less severe the jury perceives the alternatives to the death penalty to be, the more likely — one might expect — they are to select the death penalty. From the defendant's standpoint, he would like the jury to believe that the alternative to death is severe as possible.

What matters here is not the actual penalty, but the perception of the penalty. Even if the alternative to the death penalty is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole (LWOP), jurors may not believe that LWOP is really LWOP — they may credit the possibility of clemency or the risk of escape and sentence a defendant to die rather than allow society to run the risk of these contingencies. Some scholars argue that it is inherently unfair to allow jurors to consider the possibility of escape or release, but the truly unfair situation is where the jury overestimates the risk of these contingencies — in other words, the jury mistakenly believes the defendant, if spared, will serve a shorter time in jail than he is likely to serve on average.

Research suggests that juries do operate under misperceptions of this kind, and that these misperceptions make them more likely to impose death sentences than they would be if they knew the alternatives. A study by William Bowers and Benjamin Steiner, presented in the Per-spectives section of this chapter, shows that jurors significantly underestimate the death penalty alternatives both in states with and without parole, and that these beliefs make them materially more likely to vote for the death penalty. Jurors believe that prisoners given life sentences serve, on average, 17 years in prison before they are released. A team of researchers led by Craig Haney found that jurors do not believe that even those prisoners sentenced to LWOP will never be released from prison.

The key constitutional question here is whether, when LWOP is the alternative to a death sentence, the jury must be informed of that fact. Abolitionists point to the results of empirical research as a conclusive argument for requiring that juries be informed of sentencing alternatives. The argument is convincing; the data about juror misperception and the materiality of their mistaken beliefs are robust.

One could argue that a qualification is necessary, though. If a life sentence is the alternative to the death penalty, and a jury believes that life-sentenced defendants serve only 17 years on average, when in fact life-sentenced defendants serve 30 years on average, this is unfair to the death-charged defendant; the jury is more likely to vote for death than they would he with full information. Similarly, if LWOP is the alternative to the death penalty, and a jury believes the alternative is a less severe sanction, then the jury is again more likely to vote for death than they would be with full information. But what should the jury know about LWOP? Surely commutation is a possibility, as is escape, even if the likelihood of either is remote. If it is unfair for the jury to believe the alternative to death is less severe than is truly the case, it is arguably also unfair for them to believe the alternative is more severe than it really is. Perhaps in appropriate cases the jury should hear testimony from experts about how long LWOP-sentenced defendants serve and how often their sentences are commuted.

Capital Punishment in America: A Balanced Examination (pp. 403-404)
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There are others factors as well, such as that most prisons are already over-populated and the concept of rehabilitation is next to non-existent these days, not to mention that some people also consider the potential of a life sentence to be equally inhumane, and last but not least, there's also what can be best described as the "Charles Manson" effect which usually put a chill down anyone's back regardless of their personally held beliefs.

Here's a selection of various articles related to the death penalty:

After abolition: what alternative to the death penalty? (

Sentencing for Life: Americans Embrace Alternatives to the Death Penalty (

Capital Punishment: Our Duty or Our Doom? (

Life Without Parole: A Different Death Penalty (

Title: Re: Botched executions in the US
Post by: ZenFred on July 27, 2014, 08:44:30 am
DK, thanks for well researched responses.

I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that governments in "buddhist" countries don't always uphold buddhist principles. Of course, the US always lives up to its mythical Christian moral foundations, right? Haha... Politicians aren't priests or monks nor do on the whole theocracies  produce moral societies.
Title: Re: Botched executions in the US
Post by: Dharmakara on July 27, 2014, 09:04:07 am
Oh, you might be surprised ---  in  2008 there was a series of death penalty seminars with Buddhist monks in Thailand, you'll find some of their comments here: (
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