WCSU professor continues campaign against death penalty in Japan

DANBURY, CONN. — Dr. George Kain, associate professor of justice and law administration at Western Connecticut State University, has taken his campaign to abolish the death penalty to several U.S. states and Europe. This month, he traveled to Japan to talk about the death penalty and wrongful conviction.

Between Oct. 17 and 29, 2013, Kain will speak about wrongful conviction to students at several universities, as well as to lawyers at various bar association meetings. Kain, who spoke in February against the death penalty in Rome, wanted to lend his insight and experience to people in Japan — from the legal and judicial realms to college students. More than 20 inmates in Japan have been executed in the past five years.

Kain said that his views on capital punishment have evolved during his career as a state Judicial Branch administrator, WCSU faculty member and Ridgefield police commissioner from his initial support of the death penalty to his present role as a director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish the Death Penalty (CNADP).  Kain was accompanied to Japan by fellow CNADP board member and WCSU student Fernando Bermudez, whose 1992 conviction for a New York City murder was overturned in 2009 in a case championed by the Innocence Project.

One of the larger concerns, especially in Japan, Kain said, is wrongful conviction. Unlike the U.S., where an appeal is automatic, the Japanese court system requires clear proof of new evidence. “And that’s just the beginning,” Kain said. “There’s very little anyone can do to get a retrial.”

Within the United States, five states — New York, New Jersey, New Mexico, Illinois and most recently Connecticut — have abolished capital punishment since 2007, increasing the number of states that have banned the death penalty to 17.

Kain said Japan has a similar history to the U.S. with pro- and anti-death penalty sentiment, obstacles and repeal.

“We want to talk about what’s happening in the U.S. and the world to help them understand this isn’t an isolated campaign,” Kain said. He cited public opinion as the most viable method of making change in Japan but said they still contend with procedural problems and a lack of education and knowledge about conducting public opinion polls.

The primary method of execution in Japan is by hanging and a prisoner is not given notice prior to the event. Under the court system, a jury is composed of laypersons and judges and a decision is reached through majority vote rather than unanimously, as in the U.S.

“The rate of error is so high because of lack of procedural safeguards in the system,” Kain said. Death-row inmates are kept in single cells with no contact with the outside world. Kain said the Japan has been cited by the United Nations as having a flawed death penalty process from the courts to execution.

“I am hoping to lend some educational expertise on what’s going on in the world with human rights,” Kain said.

For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at (203) 837-8486.

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