Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jamaican Parliament Death Penalty Vote In

34:15 - Hangman wanted
published: Wednesday November 26, 2008

PARLIAMENT yesterday gave warm-up instructions to the hangman, telling him through a unanimous conscience vote that he was wanted back at work soon.
However, the Senate will have a say, by way of a similar vote, whether the death penalty should be retained.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding said yesterday's decision, taken by elected members of the House of Representatives, might take precedence if the Senate votes to abolish the death penalty.
"I think a great deal of weight would have to be attached to what the 60 members of parliament said because those were the persons who were elected by the people," Golding told journalists outside Gordon House shortly after the vote.

Provided that the Senate votes in a similar manner to the House, Golding has said he would move an amendment to the Constitution to remove the stricture which requires that the process of appeals through execution takes place within five years of sentencing or a condemned inmate's sentence should be commuted.

The prime minister also said there were no international treaties or conventions that conflict with the vote of MPs to retain capital punishment on its books.

10 mps absent

Thirty-four members, including Golding, voted for the death penalty to remain on the law books, while 15 voted against. Ten MPs were absent. The House speaker did not have a vote.
On the reverse question of whether MPs were in favour of the abolition of capital punishment, 36 MPs said no, while 15 voted to remove the death penalty. The additional votes came from two MPs who had entered the House during voting on the second.

"Provided that the position that the Lower House took today holds, then we are going to stand ready to carry out that penalty whenever any person on death row has exhausted his avenues of appeal," the prime minister said.

Punishment appropriate

Unlike Opposition Leader Portia Simpson Miller, who was absent from the sitting of the House and had never made clear her stance on the death penalty, Golding said he believed the punishment was appropriate.

"... The death penalty, which I think is an appropriate penalty for someone who takes someone else's life in those cases that we define as capital murder, I believe [the judicial system] it can withstand that scrutiny," the prime minister said.

He added: "I have looked at the reviews that have been conducted by the Privy Council in England and I would venture to say that, whatever deficiencies may have impaired a trial here, it is not going to pass the Bar in the Privy Council."

Golding said that as long as the Privy Council "is an avenue of appeal open to the persons, then I am satisfied that once somebody is convicted, then the death penalty should be carried out".

Eight persons on death row

There are currently eight persons on death row and, according to Golding, none have exhausted their appeals.

The condemned man has a right of appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council and the International Commission on Human Rights.

Yesterday's conscience vote was the second such in the history of modern Jamaica on abolition of the death penalty.

Of the 44 members who voted in the first conscience vote in 1979, a majority of 24 members voted in support of the retention of hanging while 19 voted against. As occurred yesterday, Simpson Miller was also absent then, prompting government members to heckle the Opposition about its leader.

"If you are voting for, then vote for. If you are voting against, then vote against. But don't run and hide," West St Thomas MP James Robertson shouted across the aisle.

Simpson Miller said on Sunday that she had a prior engagement overseas that would prevent her from voting

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