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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Radio broadcast of hanging earns listeners' kudos

Staff writer

The radio broadcast of an execution recorded in 1955, including the vivid sound of a creaking rope as the prisoner was hanged, met with a generally positive reaction from listeners, Nippon Cultural Broadcasting Inc. said Wednesday.

Broadcast at 10 a.m. Tuesday, the 55-minute program, titled "Shikei Shikkou" ("Execution of a Death Sentence"), featured the half-century-old recording made by the Osaka Detention House for educational purposes.

It was the first recording of an execution ever broadcast by a Japanese radio station, NCBI said.

No information about the person who was put to death was released. According to a statement by the AM broadcaster, about 60 percent of the 94 listener responses praised the program's "thought-provoking content."

At the top of the program, NCBI advised listener discretion, warning that the tape included "shocking sounds." The station bleeped out some of the names and comments to protect the privacy of those involved.

The prisoner could be heard exchanging words with officials and guards before the execution.

Sutra-chanting began moments after he was given his last cigarette and escorted to the gallows.

After the trapdoor was opened, the sound of a creaking rope could be heard. The prisoner apparently exhibited no agitation or panic during the clockwork proceedings.

The program also contained an exchange between the inmate and his sister in which he implored her not to cry.

Former guards interviewed for the program offered details of the scene and how such hangings are routinely carried out.

"Washable textiles are used on most gallows because many of the hanged bleed and urinate during the execution process. The curtains in the room are made of vinyl and not cloth," a former guard said.

According to the broadcast, three to five prison guards push buttons simultaneously to open the trapdoor so that none knows exactly who was responsible for the execution.

The program included interviews with legal experts and comments from the general public about the death penalty.

While about 60 percent of the listener feedback was favorable, NCBI said about 20 percent of the comments received were critical. Some complained that it "was somewhat slanted against capital punishment" and "lacked impartiality" for failing to present the opinions of crime victims.

In the show, NCBI criticized the Justice Ministry for its policy of secrecy regarding hangings, calling the disclosure of execution procedures "insufficient" even as the lay judge system is scheduled to be introduced next May.

"We hope to arouse public opinion regarding capital punishment," said a program announcer.

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The Japan Times

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