You wake up to a faint cry in the distance.
At first, you are delusional as where you are but you regain your senses to realize that you are in a windowless prison cell. You remember now…that you have killed someone due to an uncontrolled rage and the court found you guilty of murder. The court had sentenced you to death by hanging. You realized now that you are actually placed in the cell, waiting for the day when the sentence will be carried out.
There is a glimpse of hope. You are waiting for the outcome of a final appeal and you pray every second for your appeal to go through. You dream of your loved ones even though you don’t get much sleep at night, unsure of what tomorrow will brings. You watch as the inmates beside your cell are brought out from their cells, not returning back thereafter.
Today is the day when you will know your fate. 3 prison guards appear at your cell and promptly take you to the warden’s office. Your heart started to pound faster and faster as you are approaching the warden’s office. The expression on the prison guards escorting you was stone cold, not giving any clue as to what to expect at the warden’s office.
Once you entered, the warden looks up to you and then at the stack of papers on his table. He takes a deep breath and says this “Minta maaf, permohonan anda telah ditolak. Oleh itu, menurut perintah Mahkamah Tinggi bertarikh…hukuman gantung akan dijalankan pada pukul 5.30 pagi esok”
Immediately your hopes are crushed to little pieces. Your mind goes blank when you realise that you only have 12 hours to be alive. You know the exact time of your death and the thought of it makes you even weaker. You hope to spend the last few hours of your life with your loved ones but being in a prison, you know that is impossible.
Anyone who saw Majalah 3 over the weekend on the “Banduan Terakhir” would know what I mean. The interview with death row prisoners makes us twice before we do certain acts. I felt sorry for them but it is too late to be remorseful especially when the sentence is to be carried out the next day.
I know that some of us call the death penalty as inhumane but look at it this way; it is a good deterrent not to commit certain crimes. For example, killing someone with the knowledge that the person would die warrants a severe punishment. An article in Aliran list out the justifications for the death penalty:-
Retribution – The taking of a criminal’s life allows society to show convincingly that certain crimes will not be tolerated. They are considered so heinous that executing the criminal is the only reasonable response.
Deterrent – Potential criminals will think twice before breaking the law for fear of losing their life.
Safety – Once a convicted criminal is executed, we don’t have to worry anymore about that person. There is no chance of them escaping or getting parole or somehow coming out of jail, to repeat their crimes.
Cost – Once someone is executed and buried, there are no further maintenance costs to the state.
Value of human life – “It is by exacting the highest penalty for the taking of human life that we affirm the highest value of human life “ (Edward Koch)
Justice for the victim and their families – The rights of the victims are more important than the rights of the criminal. Although the victim and the victim’s family cannot be restored to the status which preceded the crime, at least an execution brings closure to the criminal and closure to the ordeal for the victim’s family.
In Malaysia, the list of crimes warranting the capital punishment is as follows:-
1. Trafficking in dangerous drugs
2. Discharging a firearm in the Commission of a scheduled offence
3. Accomplices in case of discharge of firearm
4. Offences in Security Areas for possession of fire-arms, ammunition and explosives
5. Offences against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong
Discretionary sentence (up to the judge to decide)
1. Abduction, wrongful restraint, wrongful 1 confinement for ransom (kidnapping)
2. Consorting with person carrying or having possession of arms or explosives
3. Waging or attempting to wage war or abetting the waging of war against the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, a Ruler or Yang di-Pertua Negeri
In some countries like Philippines, the death sentence is given even for crimes like rape. To learn more about death sentences around the world, read here for details