What happens in death chambers

Tokyo

I was confused by the information provided in the Oct. 10 front-page article “Death by hanging not quick: data show.” Do the times stated refer to the commencement of the execution procedure, i.e., from the condemned cell to the moment of death, or from the moment the noose is tightened around the prisoner’s neck to his/her death?

As an opponent of the death penalty, I want those Japanese who support this barbarous act to be fully cognizant of what it is they actually support. That is, the actual details of an execution. At the moment, the Ministry of Justice provides very little information, save a small insight by allowing the publication of photographs of the death chamber, without the rope. Why no rope?

Well-known cases, such as the infamous botched executions by the U.S. Army’s executioner of high-ranking Nazis in Nuremberg, were a result of the “American method.” Indeed, official reports from witnesses at the time (Donald E. Wilkes Jr., professor of law at the University of Georgia law school and Kingsbury Smith of the International News Service) stated (inter alia) “many were reported to have fallen from the gallows with insufficient force to snap their necks, resulting in a macabre suffocating death struggle that in some case lasted many, many minutes.”

If the peace-loving, kind, considerate citizens of Japan really knew what happens in their country’s death chambers, an inefficient cruel and inhumane action carried out by the state on their behalf, would they continue to support it? I hope and pray they would not and that eventually Japan would join the other civilized nations who have either abolished or suspended the death penalty.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

paul gaysford