Mon, Feb 20, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Justice Ministry working to reduce execution rate

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT While the ministry labors to abolish the death penalty, the public continues to favor it, viewing the penalty as an effective crime deterrent

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan has more than 100 inmates on death row, with 15 having been given the final sentence and awaiting execution, according to the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

While the government has not been able to achieve its goal of abolishing the death penalty, it has managed to lower the number of executions, the MOJ said.

This is why the number of death-row convicts is on the rise, it said.

Ministry statistics shows that as of Feb. 17, there were 109 death-row convicts in prisons nationwide. But of the 17 prisoners sentenced to death last year, only three were executed.

Justice Minister Morley Shih (施茂林) said that the Supreme Prosecutor's Office has filed extraordinary appeals to the Supreme Court in an effort to keep these prisoners alive.

For those whose extraordinary appeals had been rejected by the Supreme Court, the ministry has also attempted to stay their execution, Shih said.

Such appeals and delays explain why only three out of the 17 convicts sentenced to death last year were actually executed, he added.

Shih said that Taiwan might not be able to abolish the death penalty soon, as a majority of the public believes it is a more effective deterrent against crime than any other form of punishment.

Moreover, many believe that without capital punishment, relatives of the victims of violent crimes would not be accorded justice.

However, criminals sentenced to death also suffer intense pressure in awaiting their execution dates.

A prisoner, Huang Chih-hsien (黃志賢), 28, who was given the death sentence over a year ago, committed suicide last month.

Huang had reportedly told prison staff that waiting for his execution date was too painful.

According to a report by the Chinese-language newspaper, the United Daily News, two death-row convicts were recently found to be suffering from mental illness.

Meanwhile, a former Taipei County senior high school teacher, Tseng Si-ru (曾思儒), was given the final death sentence last week for killing a female colleague, surnamed Ho.

In 2002 Ho caught Tseng breaking and entering her apartment. Tseng got hold of a dumbbell, hit Ho with it and, despite the latter's plea for mercy, used a knife he was carrying to slash her neck. He then turned on the gas to leave her to die.

Tseng even attempted to make the death of Ho look like a suicide, but bloodstains at the scene of the crime led the police to Tseng.

Tseng was given seven death sentences, which were upheld by the Supreme Court.

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