Before making some points I think it would be great if jOhn came back and answered his own questions.
Firstly there is the misconception that there is no capital punishment in Britain; there is. You can still be hung for treason, piracy on the high seas and a couple of other obscure indiscretions.
Mooman brought up the issue of forensic science and its interpretation and how its presented and the stresses made on certain points. In Britain in the last few months we have had 3 women released after appeals from their life sentences for killing their own children which they said was due to cot death. In each case the 'expert', Prof Roy Meadows, gave evidence that it was a 73 million to one chance that there could be mutiple cot deaths in one family. This evidence has been discredited and many cases he gave evidence in are now being re-opened. All 3 women would have been in danger of receiving death sentences if it was on the statute.
ddw keeps on about Hitler. He was elected by the German public and although he attained power through some dubious politiking the majority of people followed him and supported the decisions he made. As regard receiving the death penalty even at the end of the war and with Germany in defeat I don't believe that in a German court with a German jury he would have been given this punishment. The parallels with Saddam & Iraq are not accurate as Saddam had his country in total fear of him.
The question of confessions has to be given close scrutiny. In this country there have been numerous cases of miscarriage of justice due to false confessions. For instance Stefan Kiszko would have been executed following his 'confession'. It took 16 years for him to be released on appeal following a review of the forensic evidence and evidence that his 'confesssion' had been obtained by telling him that if he admitted the crime he could go home to his mother (he had learning difficulties and a mental age below the norm).
Blackcatter confused me. His first 3 points appeared to reject capital punishment yet he is pleased the US in the elite? IMO that should read "wrong".
Finally ddw wrote "even the most apparently stable political structures can come tumbling down pretty quickly when one unscrupulous leader wants to whip up and exploit age-old animosities"; well I can only assume he is referring to the Bush dynasty.
Personnally I could never live in a society which advoctes such a policy. One error would negate any perceived justification. There are regularly polls reporting the attitude of the public to capital punishment but I have never been asked and neither has anybody I know. In addition should there be a phone-in to TV or radio the advocates will always make their view known but the "liberals" such as myself tend not to bother. Should it ever come to a referendum however a different perspective would activate the anti-capitalists.