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Debate on the death penalty continued in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (Nov. 12) with State Minister in the Ministry of Water and Housing, Everald Warmington, arguing that should Jamaica resume hangings, it would descend to the level of murderers.
“I don’t believe that any civilised society should descend to the level of murderers to commit the same murder that those same persons have committed. It is barbaric and we should not practice barbarism in any form whatsoever. And if we, as a nation, should descend to the level to practice the same thing that the criminals do out there, we are no better than them,” he stated.
Arguing that any loss of a life constituted murder, whether from criminal action, at the hands of the police, or via the death penalty, the Member of Parliament (MP) for South West St. Catherine suggested alternative forms of punishment such as chain gangs and the re-introduction of the cat o’nine.
According to Mr. Warmington, there were innocent persons, who have been wrongly accused and convicted of crimes and the country does not currently have the forensic science framework, which can provide the necessary support for the justice system to “vindicate an accused.”
“There are many cases where innocent persons are framed.and not only in Jamaica, but around the world and we don’t have that (forensic) system to judge the DNA to state that this person is innocent or guilty,” he pointed out.
“My position.is that I would prefer 10 guilty men to walk free than we put to death one innocent person. Therefore, on the basis of this, I cannot…ever, support the resolution,” Mr. Warmington said adamantly, stating further that he knew of no evidence to support the view that capital punishment served as a deterrent to the perpetrators of murder.
MP for East Kingston and Port Royal, Phillip Paulwell, in supporting Mr. Warmington’s view, proposed social intervention as an alternative to tackling the problem of crime.
“I would prefer…if we were looking at methods to improve our situations in our communities, to see how we can create conditions that would enable our young people to be far more properly educated, to learn from early, their responsibilities to themselves, and their communities, and to see how we can fashion a system that will enable many of them to walk away from this life of crime,” Mr. Paulwell stated.
MP from Central Manchester, Peter Bunting, said that given that the death penalty is the legal recourse for murder, “I am obliged to uphold the law as it stands. But for my own personal conviction to the sanctity of human life, I cannot support the continuation of capital punishment,” he stated.
In his contribution to the debate, Minister of Water and Housing, and MP for North West St. James, Dr. Horace Chang, opined that capital punishment was wrong, and stressed the need for the State to “raise the bar” in so far as setting a “new standard for justice.” He proposed that the death penalty be eliminated, and that social intervention measures be undertaken in inner city communities, to “restore a sense of hope, a sense of value, and restore value to their lives.”
MP for South West St. Ann, and Attorney-at-law, Ernest Smith, was among those who rebutted claims that the death penalty was barbaric and not a deterrent to murder, suggesting that “if we were following the letter of the law all these years, and carrying out the executions, it is my view that all those persons, who have the mind to rape and murder, to rob and murder, to burn, rob, rape, and murder, a lot of them would have changed their minds.”
The debate will continue in the House on Tuesday, November 18.