Saturday, February 03, 2007

Last execution in Australia

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1967 Ronald Ryan (b. 1925) was executed at Pentridge Prison, Victoria, Australia and his body buried in an unmarked grave. The killing of Ryan, who was probably innocent, caused such outrage in the land that no one has been killed by Australian lawyers or politicians since, not that we know of, anyway. Within twenty years, capital punishment was abolished federally and in all State and territory jurisdictions.

In 1967, Ronald Ryan, the last person to be executed in Australia, was killed by the state. It was a killing that helped the Premier of the State of Victoria, Henry Bolte, win an election, but it split the community deeply, such that no politician or judge ever again dared take anyone's life. Bolte brushed aside all protests, appeals and petitions, including one signed by seven of the jurors who sat on the Ryan case.

The judge, who had to impose a mandatory death penalty, was summoned by the Premier, who was soon to go before the electorate. Bolte asked the judge if there was any chance Ryan might have been innocent. The judge, who believed Ryan guilty, could have won a State reprieve by telling a white lie, but as a Roman Catholic, he felt he could not deceive the premier. He chose, rather, to allow a man to be executed. Years later, the troubled judge said on TV that he prayed to Ryan each night.

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