Supporters and opponents of the death penalty made their arguments for and against the practice yesterday at a hearing organized by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in Taipei County.
Panelist Bill Hsu (許福生), a law professor at Central Police University, said the death penalty should be maintained.
“I spent plenty of time interviewing Chen Chin-hsing (陳進興) in prison ... learning why people like him should be separated from society forever,” he said.
Chen, who abducted and murdered TV hostess Pai Ping-ping’s (白冰冰) 17-year-old daughter Pai Hsiao-yen (白曉燕) in 1997, was convicted of kidnapping and other charges in January 1998 and executed the following year.
Academia Sinica research fellow Chiu Hei-yuan (瞿海源) said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Minister of Justice Tseng Yung-fu (曾勇夫) and Prosecutor-General Huang Shih-ming (黃世銘) all said abolition of the death penalty was the nation’s long-term goal, but because public opinion supports continuing executions, the government would not abolish the death penalty for now.
Chiu said public opinion was only an excuse, as the government is reluctant to push its own policy.
Public opinion is dynamic and complicated, he said, adding that polls have shown that 53 percent of the public support replacing executions with life imprisonment without parole, while 60 percent support people on death row not being executed if they reflect upon and regret their crime.
Attorney Hsu Wen-bin (許文彬) said opponents say that although abolition of the death penalty is an international trend and reflects progress in human rights, countries have different values and we do not have to take into account what other countries think because Taiwanese support retaining the death penalty.
Attorney and executive director of the Judicial Reform Foundation Lin Feng-jeng (林峰正) said the death penalty has to be abolished because of incorrect verdicts.
Amnesty International statistics show 130 people were wrongly executed in the US since 1980.
National Chiao Tung University law professor Carol Lin (林志潔) said life imprisonment without parole is more inhumane than execution because it is against human nature for people to live in a confined space.
National Taiwan University law professor Lee Mau-sheng (李茂生) said using the death penalty to maintain social order or deter violent crimes are illusions because since Taiwan began handing down fewer death sentences and not executing people, violent crime has not increased.
Most people at the hearing, however, supported the death penalty.