Back when I was assigned to domestics, I went to a larger city where there was already a domestic program running. I met with the domestic ADA, and spent the day following her around. At luncheon there was a treat. Some lefty organization, International Coalition for Women Judges Promoting Social Justice, or some such thing, was in town with some important lady judges from Red China. Since my fellow prosecutor was a woman, too, she was invited to attend and carried me along.
Although there were looks askance at the single differently chromosomed among us, the luncheon was pleasant. There were a half dozen judges and their Chinese KGB minder/ interpreter. I cannot recall the menu, but I do remember that the hosts knew no better than to pass dishes with one hand! I suspect the visitors were used to this gweilo faux pas.
As the meal wound down, one of the organizers asked if anyone had any questions for the Chinese judges. Before we got stuck in some “There aren’t enough woman judges” conversation, my hand went up almost on its own. "In China, I know that the death penalty is used. I know each is different, but generally, in capital cases, how long is it between arrest and execution?”
Now mind I had asked this in the very maw as it were of the American lawyer lobby. So there were dirty looks- here we were having our woman judge festival, and you had to bring up reality! I felt as though I had mentioned hunter safety training at the Cheney’s house.
But the question was out there, and the judges huddled with the minder. After a little whispered confabulation, they broke and the minder said, “Three months.”
You would have thought she had said there wasn't a diversity office at every Chinese law school! In the U. S., the few executions that take place occur ten, twenty, or more years after arrest. The delay is due to appeal upon appeal, and millions are spent in each case paying lawyers and judges. The Bar Association types’ shock that their guests order executions without such a golconda of litigation was visible on their faces, and I could see that I had started a big fight.
So could the judges and minder, when they saw the expressions on the faces around the table. Chinese sensibility abhors open disagreement, so they quickly huddled and whispered again. When they broke, all were beaming that they had figured a way to mollify the crazy white ghosts. The minder said, proudly,
“Not always so quick. Sometimes takes six months.”