Jamaica Votes To Keep Death Penalty

By: AP
By: AP

(AP) Jamaica's parliament easily rejected a proposal Tuesday to ban the death penalty in a vote propelled by the country's high homicide rate and a horrific series of recent crimes against children.

Capital punishment has long been on the books in the Caribbean country but recent governments have been reluctant to issue death warrants and the last execution was in 1988.

There have been widespread calls in recent months for executions, even by members of the clergy, after the beheading of a young girl and the discovery of an 11-year-old boy's dismembered body in a trash bag.

Asked whether capital penalty should be kept, 34 members of parliament said yes and 15 said no. There were 10 absentees.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding, whose Jamaica Labor Party took power last year for the first time in nearly 20 years, pledged to resume executions as one response to a homicide rate that has repeatedly ranked among the world's highest in recent years.

Opponents said the death penalty will not deter crime and the government should focus instead on attacking poverty and reforming its justice system.

"What has happened that will change the circumstance of one murder?" said Carolyn Gomes, executive director of Jamaicans For Justice. "It's a complete of waste of time, we should be focused on apprehending people who commit crimes, getting them before the courts and the courts ruling expeditiously on those matters."

Opposition legislator D.K. Duncan warned that the measure could incite further violence, recalling what happened when the government in the 1970s authorized police to go into people's homes without a warrant.

"All that did was allow policemen to kick down people's doors, scare children and destroy lives," he said. "It developed a culture of brutality, and we have to take responsibility that Jamaica has come to this."

More than 1,240 killings have been reported this year in the island of 3 million people, nearing last year's total of 1,400. Jamaica reported a record 1,671 killings in 2005.

Chicago, a city of about 2.8 million, reported 443 homicides in 2007.

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