A short argument in favour of the death penalty, sort of

This is the tweet that inspired this post.

It inspired the post, but not the ideas behind it, which I have been thinking over for some time.

I’m familiar with the arguments about the possibility of killing an innocent person, but here’s the thing; it’s not the death penalty that kills them, but the bad system which sentences them to death in the first place.

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Ishtiaq Ahmed – the ‘bedsit murder’

Looking for work, five friends travelled down from Newcastle to Reading: Clive Scott, Mark Randle, Stephen Muir, Martin Hogg, and David Pickering. They found a house that had been converted to bedsits and each took a room. This was the summer of 1989. By the end of the year, David Pickering would be dead and Ishtiaq Ahmed, the man accused of his murder, would be waiting to go on trial.

But the case would prove to be anything but straightforward. Over the next decade or so there were complaints about Police behaviour, suppressed reports, strange decisions by the Home Secretary, and a witness who admitted lying on tape – and then later admitted lying about lying.

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Memory, trawling, and misinformation

It seems that when you ask a psychology student of any level which experiments they remember from their studies, there are two that always stand out.

The first is Philip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. It’s one of the most famous psychology experiments of all time, and involved dressing some students up as guards and others as prisoners to observe the power structures and roles that the students played out. What happened afterwards has been analysed and discussed ever since.

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The dual life of Justin Ross Harris

In July 2012 a video showing a man locked inside a car as temperatures rose to deadly levels went viral. In just thirty minutes, the temperature rose from 95°F to 117°F, and you can see from the video below the incredible discomfort that a healthy, fit adult finds himself in.

Dr Ernie Ward, a North Carolina veterinarian, made the video to highlight the dangers of leaving pets locked in hot cars. As Ward says, it’s a lousy way to die, and Ward relates a story in which he observed a dog locked in a car outside his own clinic starting to suffer from the heat. The well-meaning owner had popped into the clinic for two minutes to pick something up, but two stretched into ten, and then into fifteen. It’s a lousy but all too easily preventable way to die.

On average, 37 children a year die the same way in the United States every year. Most are left purposely, in the same way as the dog above, by well meaning but busy parents who underestimate the time they’ll be away and the incredible speed with which temperatures can rise to fatal levels. But sometimes, they’re left by an entirely different means.

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The unlucky life and sad, solitary death of Carole Ann Hanson

19th October 2016 would have been the 98th birthday of the former judge Sir Leslie Boreham. As the son of a former chief constable it was perhaps inevitable that he would work in a legal capacity and in 1965 he was appointed Queen’s Counsel, where friends knew him as ‘a gentle and courteous silk of the old school’. He served the profession diligently, eventually becoming a judge and having a number of high-profile cases coming before him. In 1981 he was instrumental in convincing the attorney general Sir Michael Havers that Peter Sutcliffe was deceiving doctors and Sutcliffe should not be able to use a defence of diminished responsibility for his crimes. As a judge he was known to favour hard sentences, and Sutcliffe received 20 life sentences with a recommendation that he should serve at least 30 years.

Boreham was also known to be sympathetic to women. In 1972 he sentenced a man to 15 months for an indecent assault on a female acquaintance. Although the man claimed that he had perhaps misread the signs, Boreham said, “I cannot believe it takes 20 minutes for a man to understand that when a woman says no, it means no.” In 1974 he gave an abused wife a suspended sentence after she stabbed her violent husband to death with scissors, and in a 1986 civil case he awarded £96,000 to a woman whose breasts had been wrongly removed, stating that the loss was “difficult for a mere male” to comprehend.

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Justice for Glyn Razzell

The question mark against Linda Razzell’s disappearance

On 19th March, 2002, Linda Razzell was spotted by an old friend driving through Highworth, near Swindon. Linda was driving a car that the friend didn’t recognise and she recalls thinking, “Linda has a new car, good for her”. The two women made eye contact and the friend recalls thinking that Linda looked cross, which was quite understandable. According to the police, she’d been murdered by her estranged husband Glyn the day before.

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