[FOUNTAIN]Death penalty answers cries of victimsIn January, 1998, a controversy began at Mountain View Unit Prison in Texas. On death row for 13 years, Karla Faye Tucker, who was convicted of two murders in 1985 and admitted she got sexual gratification when she axed her victims, declared that she was a born-again Christian. Pope John Paul II appealed to the court to commute the death penalty and other religious organizations joined in the plea. But she was given a lethal injection at 6:35 a.m. on Feb. 3, 1998.
Anthony Porter, an African-American who was convicted of murdering two teenagers in 1982, was on death row for 17 years. As he was waiting for his scheduled execution in February, 1999, the man who was really responsible for the crime was caught. Only 15 hours before the execution, Anthony Porter was freed.
The death penalty has long been controversial for its shortcomings. Those who advocate scrapping capital punishment in Korea like to cite the cases of two men. Jo Bong-am, a leader of the Progressive Party, was executed in 1959 during the military regime on an espionage charge , and Colonel Choi Chang-sik, who was executed for having destroyed the bridges over the Han River during the Korean War, was found not guilty later.
Nevertheless, there certainly are criminals who deserve the death penalty. “The Big Thief,” a novel by a former safecracker, Baek Dong-ho, was based on true cases and tells stories of a murderer who killed his wife and ate her flesh with kimchi, and a man who axed the family of his girlfriend for opposing their marriage. Champions of capital punishment deride opponents’ efforts by citing the cases of brutal killers.
Recently, the Uri Party lawmaker Yoo Ihn-tae started an open discussion on whether to abolish capital punishment. He saw fellow democratization activists being executed on April 8, 1974, the day after they were found guilty. The experience made him an opponent of the death penalty.
Using capital punishment for political retaliation can be ended as democracy matures and the rule of law develops. It is absurd to insist on abolishing it without taking proper steps. The National Assembly has no right to silence the cries of the families who lost loved ones to brutal murderers.
by Ahn Sung-kyoo
The writer is a political news deputy editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.