Another gruesome judicial killing in the USA. Alabama has executed hitman Kenneth Smith with nitrogen gas, the first time this method has been used globally, having tried and failed to execute him in 2022 by lethal injection. A journalist who witnessed the execution described to the BBC how he thrashed violently on the gurney for around 25 minutes.
In recent times the death penalty has been increasingly abolished globally. As of late 2022, 54 countries retain capital punishment, 111 countries have completely abolished it for all crimes, seven have abolished it for ordinary crimes (maintaining it for special circumstances such as war crimes), and 24 are abolitionist in practice. All EU countries ban it with Belarus being the exception in Europe. Although the majority of nations have abolished capital punishment, over 60% of the world’s population live in countries where the death penalty is retained, such as China, India, the United States, Singapore, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Japan, and Taiwan.
Over the millenia there have been grisly methods from crucifixion, to beheading, hanging and latterly the electric chair. By the late 18th century the English legal system – the ‘Bloody Code’ – handed out death sentences for cutting down a tree, stealing from a rabbit warren and being out at night with a blackened face, pickpocketing, forgery and rape. Public executions were banned in 1868, and the abolition of beheading and quartering in 1870.
Cesare Beccaria, 15 March 1738, widely considered one of the greatest thinkers of the Age of Enlightenment, wrote a treatise On Crimes and Punishments (1764), which condemned torture and the death penalty. He is deemed the father of modern criminal law and the father of criminal justice. A man before his time as is often the case with a focal point Pluto. His works had a profound influence on the Founding Fathers of the United States though clearly not in this area.
He had a Pisces Sun conjunct Jupiter with a fearsome Mars North Node in Capricorn opposition Saturn Chiron in Cancer square Pluto.
In the UK, the abolition of capital punishment came in stages mainly through the vigorous campaigns since the late 1940s of MP Sydney Silverman, culminating in the Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Bill of 8 November 1965. That suspended it for five years and more followed. The last executions were in 1964 though it was not until 1998 that it was finally abolished on the statute for all crimes. The 1965 Act had a Sun Neptune in Scorpio trine Saturn Chiron in Pisces; with Saturn Chiron opposition Pluto Uranus square Mars.
Public opinion had been swayed by miscarriages of justice such as Timothy Evans, hanged for killing his wife when Christie the serial killer was guilty. And Derek Bentley executed at 20, who was mentally retarded due to a childhood accident and under the thumb of a younger friend who was the actual shooter of a policeman while he was present. Born 30 June 1933 11.50pm Southwark, he had a Cancer Sun and more significantly an Aquarius North Node inconjunct Mars sextile Pluto. The Aquarius North Node comes into its own while crusading for a cause, which he was not capable of but the injustice of his death did ultimately make a difference. He was hanged on 28 January 1953 when there was a yod of Mars Venus in Pisces inconjunct Pluto sextile Saturn Neptune. The transiting Pluto was conjunct the UK 11th house Saturn, ruler of the legislature. A tragic martyr to a good cause.
Sydney Silverman, 8 October 1895 was a Sun, Mars, Chiron in fair-minded Libra trine Neptune Pluto in Gemini with a determined Saturn, Mercury, Uranus in Scorpio. His determination won through eventually.
Elizabeth Fry (prison reformer, born 1780):
“Does capital punishment tend to the security of the people? By no means. It hardens the hearts of men, and makes the loss of life appear light to them; and it renders life insecure, inasmuch as the law holds out that property is of greater value than life.”
“It is frequently said by the prisoners of Newgate that the crimes of which they have been guilty are as nothing when compared with the crimes of Government towards themselves: that they have only been thieves but that their governors have been murderers. (1818)[Two things I don’t get. I don’t agree with the death penalty but if it is to be carried out why is it so difficult to get it right? Vets put down pets every day. People die from overdoses every day. Dignitas manage it. There must be sensible drugs on hand which will do the job painlessly.
The other is the desire of relatives of the victim to be present at the execution, in some cases crowing over the death of the killer. Does that give them closure? I would doubt it – more likely it would give them nightmares for the rest of their lives.]
ADD ON: Smith was executed on 25 January 2024 7.53pm, dead by 8.25pm. The execution chart – Alabama has two time zones just to be tricky.
The Alabama state chart, 14 December 1819, is bleak, tough-minded, tending towards the fanatical and autocratic. There is an unyielding Saturn Chiron Pluto conjunction in Pisces square a Sagittarius Sun, Uranus, Neptune with a Scorpio Moon – not exactly sentimental, or warm and cuddly.
ADD ON: Elizabeth Fry was an English Quaker prison reformer, born 21 May 1780, who did not campaign directly for abolition of the death penalty but was a driving force behind new legislation to improve the treatment of prisoners, especially female inmates, and as such has been called the “Angel of Prisons”. She married at 20 and had eleven children, five sons and six daughters.
She was certainly a thinker, designed for communicating her views with an Air Grand Trine of a Gemini Sun trine Neptune trine Pluto, formed into a Kite by a serious Sun opposition Saturn in Sagittarius. She also had a North Node in Taurus which she clearly put to good use.