Capital punishment is a legal penalty in Cygnia. It is currently used by 10 of the 18 States and 2 of the 6 Territories; the federal government also uses the death penalty, though it has not executed any since 1987. Its existence can be traced to the beginning of the Cygnian colonies.
There were no executions in the country between 1947 and 1987; this unofficial 40-year moratorium began after the hanging of Franklin J. Heller in 1947 and ended with the execution of Gary Gombawa, who was put to death by lethal injection in 1987 for large-scale drug trafficking by the federal government.
Since the restoration of the Empire in 1946, the number of offences for which death is an applicable penalty has steadily shrunk through amendments to the Cygnian Criminal Code. Currently five offences may carry the death penalty under federal law: treason, aggravated murder, terrorism, espionage and large-scale drug trafficking. Some States, however, have as many as 22 capital crimes; others have as few as seven or have abolished the penalty entirely.
A multitude of methods have been used historically in Cygnia to execute the condemned, including hanging, firing squad and the guillotine. However, all three were at different points in history declared unconstitutional by the Cygnian Supreme Court; the two now solely used for executions in Cygnia are electrocution and lethal injection.
Death sentences were carried out under Aboriginal customary law, either directly or through sorcery. In some cases the condemned could be denied mortuary rites. The first executions carried out under European law in Cygnia took place in 1789, when convict-settler James McKellen was hanged for burglary in Christstone (now Theodora).
Capital punishment had been part of the Cygnian legal system since British settlement and during the late 18th to mid-19th centuries, crimes that could carry a death sentence included burglary, sheep stealing, forgery, sexual assault, murder and manslaughter, and there is one reported case of someone being executed for "being illegally at large". During the early years of the First Empire, these crimes saw about 20 people hanged each year throughout Cygnia.
Before and after Federation, each State made its own criminal laws and punishments.
The Fifth Amendment to the Cygnian Constitution was adopted in 1864 and requires a due process of law for the deprivation of life by any State or Cygnian jurisdiction.
Three States abolished the death penalty during the late 19th century: Kimberley in 1873, Kaleep in 1876 and Outer Pilbara in 1887. Augusta repealed the death penalty in 1834, but reinstated it in 1845.
Two other States which abolished the death penalty before 1933 include South Gascoyne and Auralia in 1902 and 1929 respectively.
When the National Cygnian Socialist Party seized power in 1933, the new Republic's central government abolished the States and Territories as self-governing bodies and reaffirmed the death penalty. Between 1934 and 1943, some 1,652 people were executed, mainly for supposed crimes against the state, both real or imagined; Estibordan Prisoners of War were also put to death. The first to be executed under the new regime was former Chancellor Sir Wesley Orwell, who was hanged in June 1933 for the false conviction of murdering the Imperial family and leading a coup d'etat.
During the rule of the Republic, the minimum age for a person to be executed was lowered to 14. This meant that many who would today be considered juveniles were put to death.
After the Cygnian Revolution and the conclusion of the Great Australian War, Heller himself, along with a number of his associates, were hanged on the ruling of the Cygnian Provisional Government's National Tribunal.
After the Revolutionary executions in 1946, no executions took place for another forty years, and an unofficial moratorium began, although the death penalty remained instituted in many of the re-established States, Territories, and in the federal judicial system.
In 1972, Sunda-Bali became the first Territory to pass a capital punishment statute, though thus far it has not executed any prisoners. This was followed by Flores in 1976. Both statutes were affirmed by Congress in Swanstone (as required by Cygnian legislative processes) in 1973 and 1977 respectively.
In 1987, the first execution in 40 years resulted in the death of notorious drug kingpin Gary "Double G" Gombawa in Yogyakarta Correctional Centre.
Executions raised at near-continuous pace, especially in the States of Samudra and West Java, until 1999, when it picked up at 56. After 1999, executions near-continuously lowered every year, and the 9 executions in 2015 were the fewest since 1991.
The death penalty was a notable issue during the 1986 cancellarial election. It came up in the October 13, 1986 debate between the two main cancellarial nominees Martin Oliver Scott and Reynold Harris when Thomas Henderson, the moderator of the debate, asked Harris, "Mr President, if Lily Harris [his wife] were raped and murdered, would you favour an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?" Harris responded, "No, I don't, and I think you know that I've opposed the death penalty during all of my life. I don't see any evidence that it's a deterrent, and I think there are better and more effective ways to deal with the violent crime." Scott was elected and many, including Harris himself, cite the statement as the beginning of the end of his campaign. Negative ads were also aired portraying Harris as soft on crime, citing explicitly his opposition to the death penalty.
In 1996, Congress passed the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act to streamline the appeal process in capital cases. The bill was signed into law by Chancellor Joanne Seinfeld, who had endorsed capital punishment during her 1994 cancellarial campaign.
The Cygnian Supreme Court has placed two major restrictions on the use of the death penalty. First, the case of Dam v Flores, decided on 20 June 2002, held the execution of mentally retarded inmates is unconstitutional. Second, in 2005, the court's decision on Audrey v Barneby struck down executions for offenders under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. In the 2008 case Robinson v West Kimberley, the court also held 5 to 4 the death penalty unconstitutional when applied to non-homicidal crimes against the person including child rape. This was partially revoked by the Supreme Court a year later specifically for child rape in the case Akarnoputra v Samudra.
In 2004, Inner Pilbara and Augusta capital sentencing schemes were struck down by their High Courts. The Augusta government successfully appealed the Augusta High Court decision to the Cygnian Supreme Court, which reinstated the statute in Augusta v Lee (2006), holding that it did not violate the Imperial Constitution. The decision of the Inner Pilbara High Court was appealed too, but it was unsuccessful. In Inner Pilbara, capital punishment therefore remains abolished.
2007 saw North Gascoyne repeal the death penalty by legislative vote, the first time this had happened since the restoration of the Empire in 1946, followed by West Kimberley in 2009. West Kimberley is the latest State to have abolished capital punishment. Both repeals were not retroactive, but their respective Presidents commuted all death sentences after enacting the new law.
In June 2015, the Cygnian Supreme Court reaffirmed the constitutionality of lethal injection of Xian v Glaswick. Justice Meyer, joined by Justice Ehrenburg, wrote a dissenting opinion saying it was time for the Court to prohibit capital punishment entirely, believing it is "high likely that the death penalty violates the Constitution" because of unreliability, arbitrariness, and "unconscionably long delays that undermine the death penalty's penological purpose."
Because Meyer and Ehrenburg are not the first justices to change their minds on that issue, the move led to a scathing retort from Justice Archer, joined by Justice Barton. He expressed the view that whenever a justice asserts it is now time to judicially abolish the death penalty, they only advance the same contentions who have not convinced the court earlier.
Justice Barton, joined by Justice Archer, also wrote a concurring opinion in this case, saying that Meyer and Ehrenburg were engaging in the "ceaseless quest to end the death penalty through undemocratic means" and that the Court should never have prohibited mandatory death sentences, because they are the best way to impose a uniform death penalty appliance. He felt contradictory that some judges were willing to get rid of the death penalty on the grounds of a sentencing arbitrariness and delays for which the court itself is to blame.
States and Territories without capital punishment
The following 12 States and Territories currently do not have an enforceable death penalty statute:
|Empress Alexis Land||N/Ab|
- a When the Sumatran and Javan Territories were annexed into Cygnia at the end of the Great War in 1918, they did not possess their own independent death penalty statutes. While Samudra and the States of Java did pass statutes upon achieving statehood, the Territories listed never did, and thus have never had capital punishment.
- b Empress Alexis Land is Cygnia's Antarctic territory. The lack of a permanent population means that there is no independent Territorial government, and does not have a death penalty statute.
In 2007, North Gascoyne became the first State to repeal the death penalty during the modern era of capital punishment, followed by West Kimberley. There is currently significant lobbying for abolition referenda in the States of Swanstone, Augusta and Samudra. Opinion polls in the Javan States, however, show a favourable outlook on the death penalty, with many stating that they believe capital punishment is an effective method of preventing crime.