Media Mix, Nov. 20, 2021

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about a suit brought by two people on death row in Japan to do away with the practice of not informing condemned prisoners of their time of execution until only a few hours before it takes place. As pointed out in the column, only two G7 countries, the United States and Japan, still have the death penalty (some media say “only two developed countries…”), though the way executions are carried out is quite different. In the U.S., prisoners on death row usually know when they are scheduled to be put to death weeks or even months prior to the execution taking place, which gives them time to prepare and meet with loved ones—or with their lawyer perhaps to try and get a stay. In Japan, the justice minister simply signs the death warrant and the deed is done almost immediately. The prisoner has no time to prepare and neither does their lawyer, who probably doesn’t find out until it’s too late. Another major difference between the U.S. and Japan is the method of execution. In the U.S. it’s done through lethal injection, which is considered the most humane way of killing someone, though, according to the Harper’s article I cite in the column, there is a great deal of argument over just how painless it is. Apparently, one man actually survived a lethal injection and said afterwards that it felt as if the inside of his body was on fire. In Japan, hanging is the method; specifically the trap-door method which is meant to snap the neck so as to bring about instant death. Needless to say, there is no argument in Japan about whether this is the most humane way of killing someone since nobody talks about the death penalty, except to say that it should be an option for the worst kinds of crimes. Once a conviction and a sentence are confirmed, the discussion ends. The public overwhelmingly supports the death penalty, though no one, as far as I know, has carried out a survey asking how capital punishment should be carried out. The public trusts the state to make sure people convicted of heinous crimes are put to death, but they also expect the government to relieve them of the burden of having to think about it, which may be another reason why condemned prisoners don’t know when they’re going to die until, as I said in the column, the executioner actually comes knocking.

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