With the turn of the tide to the 2010s, we bid farewell to a decade that never did get a consensus moniker.
Like every decade known to the historian’s annals, however, the Aughties found plenty of work for the world’s hangmen.
As we prepare to flip over the calendar, Executed Today remembers ten executions that most palpably captured the decade’s Zeitgeist.
10. Dhananjoy Chatterjee, 2004
Although the world’s second-most populous country retains the death penalty and has dozens of death row denizens, an entire generation of Indians has come of age having never known an actual execution … never, except for the 2004 hanging of Dhananjoy Chatterjee. That made this otherwise ordinary criminal a worldwide controversy, and his archaic colonial-era hangman a temporary celebrity.
9. Aileen Wuornos, 2002
Two years after the magnetic prostitute/serial killer was given a lethal injection in Florida, Charlize Theron won an Oscar for portraying her in Monster.
8. Wang Binyu, 2005
This migrant laborer was just grist for the mill of China’s helter-skelter industrialization in the neoliberal economic machine … until, in a fury over wages stolen by his employer, he slew a foreman. Chinese media that picked up his story inadvertently made him an emblematic figure for the untold millions of his countrymen and -women who could sympathize with his sentiment: “I want to die. When I am dead, nobody can exploit me anymore. Right?” Internet buzz about Wang had to be forcibly squelched.
7. Timothy McVeigh, 2001
The Gulf War veteran was the face of terrorism in the U.S. from the time of his arrest for the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City’s Murrah Federal Building, until three months after his June 11, 2001, execution.
6. Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, 2005
Heart-rending photos of these teenagers hanging in Iran were a worldwide Internet sensation and made them an instant symbol of Iranian anti-gay persecution.
5. Mamoru Takuma, 2004
“I want others to know the unreasonableness that high-achieving children could be killed at any time,” said the author of perhaps the most infamous crime spree in modern Japanese history. The usually glacial Japanese capital system got the former janitor into a noose barely three years after he’d knifed eight children to death in the “Osaka school massacre”.
4. Cameron Todd Willingham, 2004
Something tells us that the ornery Texan — he took his leave of the world throwing an obscene gesture at his former wife from his execution gurney — would have been but pleasantly surprised to discover himself a major posthumous headache for Gov. Rick Perry (who signed his death warrant) and like-minded partisans of pseudoscience arson convictions. The sad part is that the evidence of Willingham’s potential innocence in the recent bombshell New Yorker article was basically all available at the time of his execution.
Rediscovery (with touching, or feigned, naivete) of the timeless problematic of executing innocents has characterized the 2000s not only in the U.S. but around the world.
3. The Bali Bombers, 2008
These grinning Islamic militants orchestrated the 2002 coordinated triple bombing on the Indonesian resort island of Bali that killed 202, most of them western tourists. (88 were Australians, the predominant nationality affected, as against only 38 Indonesians.) Then they spent six years gleefully milking their notoriety.
2. Zheng Xiaoyu, 2007
While proletarians like Wang Binyu died for pennies and many like Fu Xinrong died for their organs, the more privileged in China’s gangster capitalism played for higher stakes. For a decade the state’s Food and Drugs Minister, Zheng Xiaoyu took payola to rubber-stamp products that turned out to be dangerous to man and beast. His high-profile execution was Beijing’s response to a wave of concern about the safety of Chinese exports abroad … and a pledge, one year in advance of the 2008 Olympics, of China’s readiness for the world stage.
Zheng aside, elites behaving as gangsters (and vice versa) have been a recurring phenomenon on China’s execution grounds of late.
1. Saddam Hussein, 2006
Undoubtedly the decade’s signature execution, the 2006 hanging by America’s Iraqi puppet government of America’s longtime foreign policy bete noir was purchased for trillions that would have been better spent just buying the guy off … especially since cell phone video soon to circle the globe revealed the old rattlesnake taking command of a distinctly undignified scene.
Some other notable executions to remember the 2000s by:
- Creepy Malaysian pop singer Mona Fandey
- Anti-abortion terrorist/martyr Paul Hill
- Dmitry Chikunov, whose secret execution launched his mother on the crusade that would abolish Uzbekistan’s death penalty
- Draconian anti-drug laws ensnaring foreign drug mules, like Australian national Nguyen Van Van and Nigerian footballer Iwuchukwu Amara Tochi in Singapore, and mentally ill Briton Akmal Shaikh in China
- Vietnamese crime lord Nam Cam
- Han Bok-nam, whose public shooting in North Korea was filmed and smuggled out of the country
- The filmed stoning of Du’a Khalil Aswad in Iraq
- Many people, such as Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni, taken hostage in Iraq and demonstratively “executed”
Also On This Date
- 1903: William Ennis, wife-murdering cop
- 1974: Charles Dean and Neal Sharman
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Entry Filed under: Essays
Tags: 2000s, aileen wuornos, ayaz marhoni, bali bombers, bali bombings, cameron todd willingham, cameron willingham, dhananjoy chatterjee, dmitry chikunov, du’a khalil aswad, han bok-nam, iwuchukwu amara tochi, mahmoud asgari, mamoru takuma, mona fandey, nam cam, nguyen van van, osaka school massacre, paul hill, saddam hussein, timothy mcveigh, wang binyu, zheng xiaoyu
2004: Dhananjoy Chatterjee, the last hanged in India … for now
3 comments August 14th, 2009 Headsman
On this date in 2004,Dhananjoy Chatterjee hanged at Calcutta’s Alipore Central Jail for the 1990 rape-murder of 14-year-old Hetal Parekh.
Chatterjee’s hanging also brought into the limelight the garrulous, publicity-hounding 84-year-old executioner Nata Mallick, who conducted the hanging with his son and grandson and told anyone with a microphone stories of the hangman’s glory days.
Those days are long past on the subcontinent.
Among death penalty countries, India is the anti-Singapore: despite its billion-plus population, death sentences are vanishingly rare. Chatterjee is not only the most recent person hanged in India as of this writing, but the only one hanged there since 1995.
One actual hanging in fourteen years for a billion-person country? The only lower execution rate would be actual abolition.
Chatterjee may be relieved of his milestone distinctions in the not-too-distant future, however. (Where “not-too-distant” by the standards of the Indian death penalty might still mean years away.)
Mohammad Afzal, condemned for the 2001 terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament, has become a political lightning rod; India’s conservative Hindu party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has made political hay pushing for Afzal’s execution.