The Star. THURSDAY, MAY 30, 1907. THE DEATH SENTENCE.
When, a juiy has to -hold the balanoft ■ of life and' death in. a murder case, the I jurors usually f<=fel no little trepidation, I and approach their work with a full I sense of the responsibility of their posir I tion. Whftn they hare found the ■ prisoner guilty, the judge assumes the H black cap, and pronounces the death H sentence "with, all -the solemnity be- H 'fitting the occasion. But judging from I recent events in Britain the time seems H to be coming when the juries will have ■ less reason to be nervous ' tha ■ judge's sentence will be shorn of, its ■ dread. The man Pag^et, who was ■ ; found guilty of the murder of the girl H Axup, in Wellington, has had the ■ death sentence commuted to imprison- ■ ment for life, and the hangman will H draw , no fee. The jury recommended' ■ Page| to mercy on the ground that he ■ was an epileptic, and that in one of the H stages of epilepsy he took the girl'e'H life- This recommendation has hadH weight with the. Cabinet, and theH King's vicegerent has; been advised taH give it effect. In England a fewH weeks ago, Rayner, believing WillramtH Whiteley to be his fatHer and the be~H trayer of his mother, believing also that H he hadi not been treated as the sup- H posed kinship entitled him to be, took H the life of, in/ his eyes, a cruel and un- H natural father. When he bad doneH this he turned the weapon against him-H self, and it required a cansideraßiei amount of medical skill, care and alwH tention, to nurse ibim back to life. Thai^fl circumstances attending this murder, and Rayner 's trial for it, were such asH to induce Mr Herbert Gladstone, fheH Home Secretary, to commute the death! BB sentence. There was a strong public H agitation in favour of a reprieve, andiflfl letters to the newspapers came i n^| shoals, while petitions in circulation were signed by thousands of people, alli^fl demanding a reprieve. The reprieve: came before the petitions reached their destination. There have been other cases in recent, years in which the^B Royal clemency has been extended inf^B Britain, and only last month the wo-^B man Kitty Byron, who stabbed to deatbj^B her betrayer, a London stockbroker, had her life sentence reduced to teii^B years' penal servitude, and under the^B circumstances this is equivalent to vai^B conditional release. She was origin-^H ally sentenced to death. ' There 'arei^B other cases that could be mentioned,^B all of which seem to point to an early^B abolition of capital, punishment inflß Britain. Switzerland has shown th«^B way in this matter, and in that oountry^H there is no death by the law. n^| Switzerland not long ago a Russian g"'l^| revolutionary shob a Paris financier,^B mistaking !him for a Russian Minister.^! The Swiss Court thought that foui^H years' imprisonment and twenty years'^B exclusion from Switzerland was suffi-^H cient punishment for the girl, who was^H not evsn regretful that her bullet had^H formd its billet in the wrong man.^H There is undoubtedly a tendency to re-^^fl lax the rigour of the Mosaic law,^H " Whoso sheddeth' man's blood by man^H shall his blood be shed," and to ira-^H prison the murderer for life, instead of^H preventing in the most effectual way^H known any possible repetition of the^H crime on his part. But then leniency in^H punishment is .being shown every where^^fl There is a .decadence of the rod i^^H families, and less robust met bods &N^H adopted. In the schools the teacher^^B have departed from the old. system^H when "There was the reign of tawse and terror:^^fl Blows were the cure for every error." In the army, too, the defaulting soldiei^H need not now fear the halberts and th^^H cat, and' even in the gaols the cat i^^B applied only to the backs of men wlu^^B have been guilty of unspeakable crime^^H The methods of moral suasion are prd^H bably an evidence* of greater civilisa^H tion, but there is just the danger tba^H they may be applied too freely-