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The Penalty of Death June 12, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.
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I have wanted to write about this for a long time; and in view of the quote at the top of this blog one must wonder why it has taken that long.

The death penalty was a talking point not too long ago; most recent being the instance where Tochi was hanged. This led to a big debate in the blogosphere whereby several issues became so interwined that it became confusing after awhile, akin to the Wars of Roses. In that situation, Tochi was hanged because he had been convicted of drug trafficking and under the law that got him a mandatory date with Darshan Singh.

Now check the line above this page:

If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look him into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”

 The above, in  a way, sums up Ned’s views on this issue of the death penalty (No I do not advocate that the Judges become the ones to pull the trap door). The death penalty serves a purely retributive purpose (though you can also say it serves to prevent the criminal from committing his crime again; he can’t do it if he is dead) and thus should be reserved for the most serious offences such as murder. Therefore with regards to drug trafficking alone, it appears rather excessive but if you believe that drug traffickers destroy life and thus should also be treated akin to murderers then your point is acknowledged. However as the aforesaid quote suggests, executing another human being should never become an easy task or be expedited in anyway.

Therefore the revalations behind the Statute under which Tochi, Nguyen and others were convicted do give rise to cause of concern. The fact that there is a presumption that you know what you are carrying and therefore are drug trafficking is rather worrying. Those who have watched The Practice and some other legal dramas would have heard of the mantra “innocent until proven guilty”. However the presumption clause goes against this and essentially makes one guilty until proven innocent. The Burden of Proof, which in a criminal case should lie with the Prosecutor, is now on the Defendant. Before anyone starts decrying Ned to be a weepy hearted liberal, I must state that this post merely states my views on the death penalty; this post is not an attempt to find fault with the trials of those executed. Anyway back to the Act, since the Act prescribes a mandatory sentence of death on those convicted of it, and since we are dealing with human beings, it is only fair that most doubts are resolved before conviction; namely, the case against the person be proven beyond reasonable doubt. This acts as a safeguard in the event that a situation not dissimilar to that of Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones Diary 2 occurs. What if someone slips 2g of heroin into a person’s bag by mistake and the person crosses the check point and is nabbed? Bear in mind that under the current Act he will be presumed to have been drug trafficking!

Furthermore, I do not think that the Prosecutors in Singapore are buay kan such that they will be unable to prove a drug trafficker guilty without the presumptions kicking in. I also do not think that the Singapore Judiciary cannot distinguish between a person who is guilty and a person who is at the wrong place at the wrong time. Thus it is only fair that this presumptions be removed so as to act as a safeguard against a miscarriage of justice. The Law should not do the job for the prosecution in anyway.

Apparently there are also other issues in criminal law, with regards to burden of proof and defendants rights. Unfortunately I do not know many criminal lawyers, and so no comment will be forthcoming at this time. What I do know is that death, is absolute and irrevocable, and thus if a sentence of death is passed, in no way must the process be expedited.

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