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Oxford study shows 91 per cent support hangings
A recent survey found that 91 per cent of Trinidadians interviewed support the death penalty. Attorney General Anand Ramlogan told the Guardian yesterday that this survey validated what the Government had been saying and even what the PNM had said. The survey was conducted by Market Facts and Opinions in Trinidad and designed by Professors Roger Hood, of Oxford University, and Dr Florence Seemungal, a Trinidadian psychologist who is attached to Oxford University. “I think Opposition chief whip Marlene McDonald had said 85 per cent of the country supports the death penalty, but here we have this survey saying 91 per cent support…It proves what we have been saying all along,” Ramlogan said.
The survey was commissioned by the Death Penalty Project in London in association with the Rights Advocacy Project of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Faculty of Law and was conducted from November 16 to December 16, 2010. The size of the sample was 1,000 people in Trinidad.
The reason cited for Tobago not being covered was the cost involved.
According to the survey, the current mandatory death penalty for murder was supported by only 26 per cent of the population, while nearly 64 per cent support a discretionary death penalty, that is a judge considering the individual circumstance of the murder. When faced with different scenarios of murders, however, only one in five interviewed thought that the death penalty was appropriate punishment for all these crimes. The interviewees were given different cases to judge. The main reason given for regarding the death penalty as the appropriate punishment for murders the interviewees were asked to judge was retributive.
That is someone should be punished for taking a life. Only in a small number of cases—1.3 per cent—did Trinidadians give as one of their reasons it might have a deterrent effect on others who might consider committing a murder. According to the survey, the high level of general support for the death penalty was based on it being enforced with no possibility that an innocent person could be executed.
If this should happen, only 35 per cent of those interviewed would continue to support capital punishment.
Trinidadians generally favour a discretionary death penalty, the survey showed. The findings showed that a majority of people interviewed did not support the use of the death penalty in all cases involving robbery or drug and gang killings. They preferred to take into account mitigating factors such as age and previous good character. “This suggests that they would be unlikely to favour a mandatory system even for a smaller class of murders defined rigidly by statue such as those involved in the commission of a violent felony,” according to the survey.
Reasons for support
The survey found that the reasons for supporting the mandatory death penalty was that premeditated murderers deserve to die and that everyone should be treated equally—“a life for a life.”Eighty seven per cent of them said they would support the death penalty even if scientific evidence showed that it was not a more effective deterrent to imprisonment than a long period of imprisonment. When asked what they thought might be the most effective policy for controlling crime, only 36 per cent of those who support the mandatory death penalty favoured a “greater number of executions” as the least likely policy to reduce violent crimes leading to death. For those who support a discretionary system, however, they gave the reason that not all who commit murder “deserve to die.” When the supporters of the mandatory or discretionary death penalty were asked whether they would still favour capital punishment if evidence showed that innocent people have sometimes been executed, support was less. Among those who support the mandatory death penalty, support fell from 26.4 per cent to 14.5 per cent of the entire sample.
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