Claudine Clark

Regressive justice system: A return to the past?

In ancient Rome, the death penalty was widely used to punish the most serious crimes. Roman emperors had the power to decide the fate of the condemned, and there was no formal justice system as we are sold today. One of the most famous practices was the Roman games, where gladiators fought to the death for the amusement of the spectators. Roman emperors had the power to decide the life or death of defeated gladiators by giving a thumbs up or down. This practice was considered symbolic of Roman justice. However, this practice was often used in an arbitrary manner and without regard for human life. Roman emperors often used their power to condemn gladiators to death without just cause. The most famous example of this is the executions ordered by Emperor Commodus, who was known for his passion for the Roman games. Commodus often ordered the execution of gladiators for the simple pleasure of killing, without regard for their lives.

In the Middle Ages, executions were commonplace as punishment for a variety of crimes, ranging from theft to sorcery to treason. Unfortunately, these executions were often tainted by corruption and injustice, and the process was not always fair. The courts were often controlled by the rich and powerful, who used their influence to obtain verdicts in their favor. Punishments were often cruel and inhumane, with executions by hanging, beheading, or even burning at the stake. Corruption was also a major problem in the medieval court system, as judges and lawyers were often corrupt and took bribes to influence verdicts. The poor and oppressed were often victims of this system, as they could not afford to pay for an effective defense. Convictions were often based on circumstantial evidence or dubious testimony, rather than on hard evidence. Ultimately, executions in the Middle Ages were often marked by barbarity and injustice, which undermined the credibility of the judicial system of the time.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, executions were often used by the powerful to serve their political and economic interests. Used to silence political opponents or revolutionaries, and to intimidate the popular masses. Money and power were central to these practices, as the rich and powerful could often buy their way out of legal trouble, while the poor and oppressed were often sentenced to death for minor crimes. Moreover, executions were often tainted by injustice and bias, as the judicial system was corrupt and unequal. Courts were often controlled by higher-ups, who could influence verdicts and obtain lighter sentences for themselves and their allies. Convictions were often based on unreliable evidence and dubious testimony, rather than on hard evidence. Ultimately, 17th and 18th century executions were marked by injustice, bias, and corruption.

During World War II, the Nazis used the death penalty as a tool of terror and domination. The Nazi regime established military tribunals to try prisoners of war and resistance fighters, and death sentences were often politically motivated. Thousands of people were executed by hanging, shooting or gassing in Nazi concentration camps. Executions peaked in 1943, with over 5,000 people executed in one year. The Nazis also used the death penalty to punish Jews and other persecuted minorities. In 1942, Operation Reinhard, which aimed to exterminate the Jews of Poland, resulted in the execution of over 1.5 million people. The death penalty was widely used by the Nazis to suppress all forms of opposition and impose their ideology.

Copyright free by Stefan Keller/Pixabay

Today the death penalty continues to divide the United States and repeat the mistakes of the past, with some states seeking to reintroduce archaic methods of execution. The state of Utah, for example, recently voted to reintroduce the firing squad as a method of execution in the event that other methods are deemed unconstitutional. This decision was made despite criticism from human rights advocates who pointed out that this method was cruel and inhumane. Yet some vengeance-seeking legislators argue that this method is more humane than others, as it allows for a quick and painless execution. All they really want is to be sure that they can satisfy their need to kill at all costs by hiding behind justice. The decision follows a series of attempts to restrict the rights of death row inmates in the United States, including in the state of Florida, where lawmakers are seeking to overturn the need for a unanimous jury to sentence people to death with HB 555/SB 450. These measures raise concerns about the future of the death penalty in the United States

From ancient times to the present, the death penalty has always been a weapon used by the rich to gain wealth and power. The same practices of corruption and injustice have continued throughout the centuries, and the poorest have never been able to defend themselves against states that have absolute power. Those sentenced to death, often from poor backgrounds, are left to their fate because they cannot afford a competent defense. Public defenders, often novices and overburdened with cases, are unable to provide an effective defense, and the results are often disastrous. The same mistakes that cost innocent people their lives in the past are being repeated today, proving that nothing has changed at all. Justice is one-sided, with the rich having all the means on their side to enforce the death penalty, while the poorest are condemned in advance, at the mercy of a system that does not seek the truth, but rather to satisfy a thirst for revenge that solves nothing.

The death penalty is an archaic relic that must be abandoned, and it is time we open our eyes to the barbarity inherent in this system. Yes, it is time to wind your clocks and turn the hands in the direction of tomorrow, stop living in the past, stop sacrificing our family for the glory of some bloodthirsty egomaniacs! In these uncertain times, it is important to remember that we are all members of the same human family, and that we have a responsibility to protect each other. This can only be accomplished through collective awareness, genuine brotherly love and unconditional solidarity with all human beings, regardless of race, religion or socio-economic status.

About the Author
Claudine Clark is president/founder of the French Coalition Against the Death Penalty. An abolitionist, paralegal and human rights consultant, her passion stems from her origins as the granddaughter of Warsaw ghetto survivors. She defends human values of forgiveness and tolerance through numerous actions.
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