Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
The editorial “Death of a serial killer” (June 20, 2008) is more evidence of just how far off the ball people’s focus regarding the recent hanging execution of convicted child killer Tsutomu Miyazaki, and capital punishment in general are. First, the observation that “Coolheaded public discussion and studies are needed to determine whether the death penalty actually deters crime,” is patently false. The studies are done. The threat and practice of capital punishment DO NOT deter heinous crime. And so what if they don’t? Remember that capital punishment is“punishment.” That is why it is called that, and it may be said that the Law has no business deterring us from courses of action, even heinous ones. The business of the law in this regard is to punish us when we do commit infractions. I admit that the Law has other functions as well, but to admit that deterrence, behavior control and social engineering are and ought to be among them raises very difficult social questions that most people do not seem to recognize. So I am wearied of hearing the refrain that capital punishment does not deter. Of course it doesn’t, and that’s not the issue!
Second, to the much referenced observation that Miyazakiwent to the gallows without offering apologies for his crimes and that “With the execution, the chance to understand his psyche is gone” I once again ask “So what?” If police and prosecutors have sufficient evidence to convict suspects of crimes then what does it matter if they apologize or not? And, why would anyone want to spend the effort to understand his psyche? If it is in order to better deter others from a similarly sad life and fate, I suggest it is a weak argument, because sadness may be just as much a right as happiness in our human lives.
Third, Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama, predictably, is quoted as saying that he has “no choice” but to sign death warrants so as “to achieve social justice” (“Hatoyama hits ‘grim reaper’ jab” June 21, 2008). The obvious truth is that as the Justice Minister Mr. Hatoyama has all the choice in the world. But in this country it seems that the “it can’t be helped” excuse too often replaces meaningful debate of social issues. That task too often falls to contributors to the Readers in Council page.