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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

International Justice and the Death Penalty

While it appears that a leading candidate to replace the District Attorney in Houston has a bias problem when putting people on juries, there is also an international legal problem.

The Houston DA scratched a black man from a jury who believed in the death penalty; yet the same DA allowed on the panel two potential jurors who had arrest records, who happened to be Hispanic. All were members of Lakewood Church.

This new fact leads one to the conclusion that it was race, not church membership, that the DA was screening for.

Meanwhile, the guy who killed a pregnant soldier has skipped to Mexico. The hitch? Mexico won't pick him up and return him if he will be subject to the death penalty. So the DA (not Houston's) in that case has the choice of getting him extradicted to the U.S. only if reducing the charge to (1) life without parole or (2) seeing him live free in Mexico. The choice is obvious.

This won't be the last time that the death penalty will spill into the international administration of justice. We will need to deal with it in order to bring people to justice when they cross borders in flight.

No European country has the death penalty. The other countries that permit the death penalty (along with the U.S.) include North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, Nigeria, Cuba and Syria.

In Iran, several women have been sentenced to die (by stoning) for adultery.

That means the current Houston DA's girlfriend could potentially be subject to death by stoning if she lived in Saudi! I wonder if he would be so pro-death penalty in that case? I wonder how he would treat an extradition request from Saudi to arrest a woman so she could be sent to Saudi for stoning for the crime of adultery?

As the world shrinks, we will have to reconcile our standards with those in the world.

While a U.S. District Attorney may want to subject a Mexican citizen to the death penalty for a heinous crime committed in the U.S., some other countries will want to do the same thing for lesser offenses.

In Iran and China, people are routinely executed for taking bribes. Texas has attempted to execute the mentally retarded.

Surely, we can obtain justice that is better than that without discriminating against a class of people -- many of whom have been found by DNA test to be wrongly given the death penalty for crimes they did not commit.

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