It is now in the media that the Cape Coast High Court on Wednesday, last week, sentenced Bright Ellis, also known as Shadow, to death by hanging for the murder of a Cape Coast-based dancehall artiste, Unruly Grant, born Emmanuel Aikins, through stabbing on February 7, 2021.
Naturally many people would share in the joy expressed by Ms Kate Swanzy, the mother of the deceased 24-year-old musician, over the verdict for obvious reasons.
However, the Ghanaian Times is forced to ask whether the death penalty is deterrent enough to make people desist from criminal acts that attract the death penalty.
The position of Amnesty International that the death penalty violates the most fundamental human right, which is the right to life, and that it is the ultimate cruel, inhuman, degrading and discriminatory* may be debatable, yet their call to expunge it from the statute books deserves all the attention.
We know that even the US, such an advanced democracy, carries out the death penalty in some of its states but that should not be the basis to continue with the capital punishment.
We wish to side with the abolitionist countries and call on the Ghana Government to consider expunging the capital punishment from its laws.
After all, when was the last time the country carried any such punishment in recent years?
What is the use of a law that is not applied?
We think that punishment gives just momentary pain to criminals but brings the most pain on the surviving family members and other loved ones.
We believe that if there should be any pain, it should mostly be borne by the criminal himself alive, even though the family and loved ones cannot pretend not to care about his suffering.
Therefore, we should be thinking of life imprisonment, for instance, if the criminals involved are too dangerous to be brought to the mainstream society.
We also believe hard labour can even bring some revenue to the state and be deterrent if the criminal is sent to work where he was well known prior to his sentencing.
We are for alternative punishment because justice can go wrong and in countries where such a verdict is not delayed, someone can have his life terminated for a crime he did not commit.
There are cases where fresh evidence emerged while the justice-gone-awry convicts were awaiting their fate.
We can cite the case of a Ghanaian wrongly convicted in the US in 1975 as published by Philip Morris on February 18, 2021 and a version of the narration put in the March 2021 edition of the National Geographic Magazine.
Seventeen-year-old high school chap Kwame Ajamu, then known and called Ronnie Bridgeman, living in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, was sentenced to death in 1975 for the murder of Harold Franks, a money order salesman on Cleveland’s east side.
It would be publicly revealed 39 years later that the 13-year-old who testified against him had immediately tried to recant his statement, but Cleveland homicide detectives told him they would arrest and charge his parents with perjury if he changed his story.
Following later court testimony, Ajamu was released on parole in 2003 after 27 years in prison and declared innocent after nearly 12 years, when the boy’s false statement and the police misconduct were revealed in a related court hearing.
Even though the scenarios may not be the same in all the cases, the fact is that the death penalty is risky but not deterrent enough and so must be scrapped.