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Boy Hangs Self After Watching Reports About U.S. Executions

January 27, 1996

PARMA, Italy (AP) _ A 12-year-old boy hanged himself after watching a TV news report about American executions and asking his parents ``if people suffer″ at the gallows, newspapers said Saturday.

The story was juxtaposed in most major dailies with reports on the firing squad execution in Utah on Friday. Italy does not have capital punishment and public opinion runs strongly against it.

The youth, identified only as D.M., hanged himself Thursday night in Noceto, a town of 10,000 people in the affluent region around the northern city of Parma.

Investigators say the youth asked his parents about hangings after they watched one of the evening news programs, which have prominently featured the Utah firing squad and an execution by hanging in Delaware on Thursday.

According to the Rome newspaper Repubblica, police quoted the father as saying the boy asked at the dinner table ``if people suffer when being hanged.″

After dinner, the boy’s parents found him hanging from a nylon rope attached to a heating pipe in the basement.

``I’m convinced the boy repeated the hanging scene to see what effect it would have, without realizing the risk, without understanding he was engaged in a mortal danger,″ the boy’s school principal, Franco Gennari Daneri, told the Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera.

Radio and television specials on the executions have also drawn criticism here.

The Vatican’s official newspaper L’Osservatore Romano said the broadcasts ``turn them (the executions) into a spectacle,″ and that death penalty programs can have devastating effects on ``weak″ viewers.

Two weeks ago, it had lashed out against what it called an ``insane rush″ for capital punishment in the United States.

The Roman Catholic Church opposes capital punishment but says that in cases of ``extreme gravity,″ the state has the moral right to use it.

A firing squad executed John Albert Taylor at Utah State Prison just after midnight Friday. Taylor, 36, was found guilty in 1989 of raping an 11-year-old girl and strangling her with a telephone cord.

Utah offers the condemned the choice between firing squad or lethal injection. Taylor had said he chose the firing squad to make a statement that Utah was sanctioning murder.

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