[BOOK REVIEW] "DEATH PENALTY" / MORI Tatsuya, Asahi Shuppansha, 2008 (Yen 1,600+tax)

Shibata Yukinori (Jesuit Social Center) 

"Humans can kill humans. Nevertheless I think that humans desire to save the life of others. This is our natural tendency from birth."

Mori Tatsuya is a writer and the director of the movie "Capital Punishment." He spent 3 years meeting with many people at all levels. This film, a journey to find oneself, is a movie questioning the meaning of capital punishment.
Moriya did a close reporting of the Oum sect and leaped suddenly into fame with his 2 documentary films [A] and [A2]. Also, as a writer, he has published other documentaries. All his literary works enjoy the same characteristics, in the sense that he does interpret things neither according to fixed ideologies or beliefs nor following the trends of mass media and public opinion. He looks for the true facts and is accustomed to reflect by himself on the real situation.
This book deals with death rows, activists in favor of the abolition of capital punishment, cartoonists, politicians, lawyers of death row, jail officials witnesses of capital punishment, prison chaplains, victim relatives, journalists in favor of capital punishment, etc. The author has met many different people and has accepted their views. He does not judge on which are right or wrong opinions. Any way, he has made a lot of efforts to try to understand all different opinions of people he met.
As a result, no conclusions are offered. He stubbornly continues demanding, "This is not enough. This does not reach the essence of capital punishment." He does not understand their thinking, because he is neither a death row prisoner, nor a relative of the victim, he has never witnessed a capital punishment nor is he involved in the issue. But, by meeting with all those people Mr. Mori thought that he could get new ideas. "I thought that in my contacts with so many people I could check my emotions that were shaking me deeply. As a conclusion, what could I get from there? What else could I know?"
This is also my own thinking. Six years have passed since I started to commit myself to the issues of capital punishment. I continue asking myself, "What are my credentials to deal with this issue?" Sometimes, talking with my wife and friends about capital punishment they question me: "Are you against capital punishment even if you or your children get killed?" Since I cannot imagine such a situation, my only answer is "I don't know." On the other hand, since there are also countries where capital punishment has been abolished, I, vaguely, think that there is not such a thing like unless you kill assassins there is no way to survive. Besides this, I feel frightened by imaging myself shouting out of hate, even if my family would be the victim of a crime, "Execute the criminal." Thus I think that a world without executions is better.
At the end of hi over 300-page literary essay, Mr. Mori reaches the following conclusion.

"I dislike the executions certainly of death-row prisoners falsely accused, but also of absolutely real criminals.
Even, if the criminal has killed many people I definitely dislike his execution.
No matter the criminal repents or not, I dislike his execution.
And, even there should be a possibility for a series of criminal acts I dislike executions."

Mr. Mori says that, although it might look somehow childish, in case one would know a real execution or meet with a death-row prisoner, there is no place for thinking it absurd.
Mr. Mori wrote a letter to Mr. Motomura Hiroshi from Hikari City (Yamaguchi prefecture), the assassin of his wife and child, and received from him the following answer.

"To my mind, the real issue concerning capital punishment is not why is it recognized, but why capital punishment is not abolished. ...The problem is not with the victims shouting for capital punishment, but, because people vaguely think that society, as a whole, becomes unrest capital punishment cannot be abolished."

The conclusion is that we must confront our anxieties. We should analyze the content of our fear. Capital punishment cannot be considered taboo.

(Shibata Yukinori, Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
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