There is an irony here: the same kind of opinion polls that show an acceptance of the death penalty also reveal that Taiwanese have a very poor view of their judicial system, complaining about the low quality of judicial reasoning and fact-finding. The public seems to say in one breath, “we think Taiwan’s judges do a very poor job of deciding cases,” and then in the next breath, “but despite that, executing people at the conclusion of these cases, which we think have been mishandled, is OK.” Such non-sequiturs are often part and parcel of the public’s view of the death penalty, which is often more driven by darker motives of revenge and fear instead of dispassionate reason and analysis.
It is not just public opinion that is at odds with the government’s aspirations toward abolition; many working prosecutors are for keeping the death penalty. Herein lies another irony; the MOJ holds press conferences committing it to abolition of the death penalty while 100 meters away in the Taipei District Court, some trial prosecutor is standing in front of a judge calling for the death penalty for some defendant. The two groups are aware of each other’s actions but the reality, often overlooked in foreign discussions of Taiwan’s prosecutorial system, is that the MOJ has no authority to dictate to ordinary prosecutors what their position should be on the appropriateness of calling for the death penalty in any particular case. As a result, the two groups are often going in different directions. One Taipei judge termed it, in private, as “hypocrisy” while another, giving a kinder assessment, simply noted that, “all the talk of abolition is mostly for foreign dignitaries, scholars and media.”