"Let's do it."
With those last words, Gary Gilmore ushered in the modern era of capital punishment in the US, an age of busy death chambers that could see its 1,000th execution in coming days.
Americans took note when, after a 10-year moratorium, the country got back into the business of executing prisoners by putting Gilmore in front of a Utah firing squad in 1977.
Yet today, most could probably not name even one of the more than 3,400 prisoners -- including 118 foreign nationals -- on death row in the US.
The name Robin Lovitt is not well known, though next week he is likely to earn the macabre distinction of being the 1,000th prisoner put to death since the US widely reinstated capital punishment in 1976 after the Supreme Court validated state laws that reformed the capital punishment system, which has executed 997 prisoners since that time.
Lovitt, 41, was convicted of fatally stabbing a man with scissors during a 1998 pool hall robbery in Virginia. Initial DNA tests of the scissors proved inconclusive. The scissors were subsequently thrown away, supposedly because of a lack of storage space.
Last month the US Supreme Court refused to reconsider Lovitt's case. One of his lawyers, Kenneth Starr, who led the special investigation into former president Bill Clinton in the 1990s, told AP Television News on Wednesday that although he supports the death penalty in principle it should not apply in Lovitt's case for a wide variety of reasons "including above all right now the destruction of the DNA evidence."
Since 1973, 122 prisoners have been freed from death row. The vast majority of those cases came during the last 15 years, since the use of DNA evidence became widespread. That has led some officials to question the fairness of the system.
A Gallup poll last month showed support for the death penalty among Americans to be at its lowest point in 27 years, but that low point translated into a 64 percent approval rating of its use. That is down from a high of 80 percent in 1994.
While the milestone of the 1,000th execution since 1976 has not prompted widespread public debate in the US, some officials have raised questions about the wisdom of the death penalty.
Twelve states do not have the death penalty. At least two states -- Illinois and New Jersey -- have formal moratoriums on capital punishment, and commissions in California and North Carolina are studying the penalty's use, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a Washington-based nonprofit organization.
Former Illinois governor George Ryan -- who invoked his state's death penalty moratorium in 2000 -- took the unprecedented step at the end of his tenure in 2003 of freeing four inmates from death row and commuting 167 others to life sentences, saying the system was "haunted by the demon of error."
Death sentences nationwide have dropped by 50 percent since the late 1990s, with executions carried out down by 40 percent since 1999, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
also see story:
Singapore set to hang drug smuggler
ATTACK UNLIKELY: China would become ‘pariahs internationally for just the wanton destruction of Taiwan’ and would have little to gain from it, Trump’s security adviser said A top White House official on Friday urged Taiwan to build up its military capabilities to protect against a possible invasion by China, saying that Beijing would have that ability in 10 to 15 years. US President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien told the Aspen Security Forum that a missile attack by China against Taiwan would be much too destructive. An amphibious attack is a possibility, although at the moment it is beyond China’s capability, he said. However, China could combine that threat with “gray zone” operations, embargoes, harassment and other actions to intimidate the nation if Taipei does not build
TAKES THE CAKE: Chinese diplomats tried to take photographs of people attending a National Day event in Suva, before reportedly assaulting a Taiwanese diplomat The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday condemned the Chinese embassy in Fiji over a fracas at its Double Ten National Day event at a Suva hotel, while a lawmaker demanded that the ministry file a lawsuit against Chinese embassy personnel for injuring a Taiwanese diplomat at the event. The Grubsheet news blog on Sunday and New Zealand-based Asia-Pacific Report Web site yesterday reported that two members of the Chinese embassy in Suva tried to force their way into a celebration held by the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji at the Grand Pacific Hotel on Oct. 8 to take photographs of
TAIPEI REACTIONS: Joanne Ou decried China’s ‘gangster diplomacy,’ while MOFA said its Fiji counterpart dealt fairly with the incident and protected the trade office’s rights The world should denounce the actions of Chinese embassy staffers in Fiji against a Taiwanese diplomat during a National Day celebration in Suva, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said yesterday as it thanked the Fijian government for its help after the Oct. 8 incident. Two Chinese diplomats tried to force their way into a celebration held by the Taipei Trade Office in Fiji at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Oct. 8, and a Taiwanese diplomat who tried to stop them taking photographs suffered a head injury. MOFA spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) told a news briefing that the ministry
TIT FOR TAT? Messages sent through channels have urged Washington to drop its prosecutions of Chinese researchers or see Americans put at risk Chinese officials warned their US counterparts as early as the summer that they might detain Americans in China if the US does not stop prosecuting Chinese academics linked to the Chinese military, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on Saturday, citing people familiar with the matter. China sent repeated warnings through multiple channels, including the US embassy in Beijing, the report said. The message has been blunt: The US should drop prosecutions of the Chinese academics in US courts, or Americans in China might find themselves in violation of Chinese law, the newspaper cited sources as saying. The US has charged several