No Clemency for Tookie

I don’t find this surprising at all:

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has denied clemency for convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams, who co-founded the Crips street gang.

Schwarzenegger announced the decision Monday shortly after a federal appeals court refused to block Williams’ scheduled Tuesday execution.

The court made its decision about nine hours before Williams is to receive a lethal injection.

I have a lot of reasons why I dislike and oppose the death penalty, and not one of them has to do with a concern for the fate of guilty men. I dislike the death penalty because it is irreversible, it is arbitrary, it is seemingly enforced in a haphazard manner, it seems to be more about race and class than guilt, it does not seem to prevent crime, and because I see no need to have a system that could kill one innocent man when we could keep them all imprisoned and avoid that risk.

Like I said- my opposition to the death penalty is not based on guilty men dying, and that is what Tookie Williams is. He probably had a hand in far more than just the four murders for which he will be executed, is responsible for who knows how many deaths and how much violence with the formation of the Crips (and some believe he was involved with them well after his incarceration), and I really feel little to no sympathy for him.

I am glad he ‘reformed’ after a while in jail, and I am glad he managed to do a few good things after being sentenced to death for his unspeakable crimes- maybe his God will take that into account tonight. But personally, I have a really hard time getting worked up over this case, and think there are far better cases to champion for those who dislike the death penalty than a multiple murderer who still refuses to admit his own guilt.

*** Update ***

Arnold’s official response is here, and here are some key aspects (.pdf):

he basis of Williams’ clemency request is not innocence. Rather, the basis of the request is the “personal redemption Stanley Williams has experienced and the positive impact of the message he sends.”4 But Williams’ claim of innocence remains a key factor to evaluating his claim of personal redemption. It is impossible to separate Williams’ claim of innocence from his claim of redemption.

Cumulatively, the evidence demonstrating Williams is guilty of these murders is strong and compelling. It includes: (1) eyewitness testimony of Alfred Coward, who was one of Williams’ accomplices in the 7-Eleven shooting; (2) ballistics evidence proving that the shotgun casing found at the scene of the motel murders was fired from Williams’ shotgun; (3) testimony from Samuel Coleman that Williams confessed that he had robbed and killed some people on Vermont Street (where the motel was located); (4) testimony from James and Esther Garrett that Williams admitted to them that he committed both sets of murders; and (5) testimony from jailhouse informant George Oglesby that Williams confessed to the motel murders and conspired with Oglesby to escape from county jail. The trial evidence is bolstered by information from Tony Sims, who has admitted to being
an accomplice in the 7-Eleven murder. Sims did not testify against Williams at trial, but he was later convicted of murder for his role in Albert Owens’ death. During his trial and subsequent parole hearings, Sims has repeatedly stated under oath that Williams was the shooter.

Based on the cumulative weight of the evidence, there is no reason to second guess the jury’s decision of guilt or raise significant doubts or serious reservations about Williams’ convictions and death sentence. He murdered Albert Owens and Yen-I Yang, Yee-Chen Lin and Tsai-Shai Lin in cold blood in two separate incidents that were just weeks apart.

***

Is Williams’ redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise? Stanley Williams insists he is innocent, and that he will not and should not apologize or otherwise atone for the murders of the four victims in this case. Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption. In this case, the one thing that would be the clearest indication of complete remorse and full redemption is the one thing Williams will not do.

Clemency decisions are always difficult, and this one is no exception. After reviewing and weighing the showing Williams has made in support of his clemency request, there is nothing that compels me to nullify the jury’s decision of guilt and sentence and the many court decisions during the last 24 years upholding the jury’s decision with a grant of clemency.

Therefore, based on the totality of circumstances in this case, Williams’ request for clemency is denied.

Hard to disagree with that.

More reaction from frequent commenter Mr. Furious.

Jeralynn at TalkLeft disagrees, and this link will provide you with all of the past talk Left Tookie coverage.

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231 replies
  1. 1
    Stormy70 says:

    Word.

  2. 2
    rilkefan says:

    Haven’t researched it carefully, but I got the impression that the govt’s case was overly reliant on bought criminal testimony and that the prosecution involved prohibited racial statements. Ok, so no doubt the guy committed plenty of other crimes worth frying for according to our system, but I’d rather he fried in a clear-cut case if at all. Why someone who’s now a useful human being will be killed by the state instead of, say, Mumia – that escapes me.

  3. 3
    Zifnab says:

    Frankly, I don’t really give a damn about Tookie Williams either. However, since his imprisonment he has become an outspoken proponent against gangs and gang violence. Executing Tookie isn’t about seeing justice served – like you said, he’s probably guilty of alot more than just four murders and one execution hardly covers it all. Executing Tookie is about executing a very powerful and influencial symbol. Effectively, you’re taking Smokey the Bear out back and shotting him.

    People talk about the death penalty as being a deterant to crime. So far, it seems that Tookie is a better deterant than the death penalty. What do we have to gain by going through with this execution? What do we have to lose?

  4. 4
    Stormy70 says:

    I’m pithy. Like O’Reilly. What say you?! ;)

    (I mock him, because I despise him. Plus, work is getting on my nerves and interfering with the more important things in my life, like posting pithy comments, and typing run-on sentences.)

  5. 5
    KC says:

    Totally agree with you here, John.

  6. 6
    Vladi G says:

    My objection to it is based on the idea that it’s ridiculous to have a system that says “killing people is wrong, and because you did something wrong, we’re going to kill you”.

  7. 7
    Paul L. says:

    Executing Tookie is about executing a very powerful and influencial symbol. Effectively, you’re taking Smokey the Bear out back and shotting him

    M*A*S*H*E*D
    http://www.hogonice.com/2005/12/mashed.html
    “As much as bloggers bitch about facts showing Tookie is guilty, it seems like we haven’t done a really good job of covering this. I didn’t know until today that his bestselling book only sold 300 copies, and that his detractors assert that his girlfriend wrote all his works. Wonder why she hasn’t been nominated for a Nobel. Maybe she has.

    That information comes from the mother of one of his victims. She was interviewed on Fox News’s Dayside today.

    So much for the wonderful job he’s doing, persuading millions of kids not to join gangs. Dr. Seuss, he ain’t.

    If it’s any consolation to the Tookie Sucker Brigade, tomorrow he probably WILL persuade a lot of kids not to join gangs. By being executed for being an asshole. “

  8. 8

    I am against the death penalty. I don’t believe the state should have the authority to execute people. Also, two wrongs don’t make a right. I view it as hypocritical.

    However, I believe that Tookie Williams doesn’t deserve clemeny and here’s why…

    The man will not admit he is guilty. You cannot expect me to believe he was wrongfully convicted on 4 murder charges. I applaud his turn around and his efforts but if he isn’t willing to admit he is guilty, it means he doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. He will not admit that he was completely wrong and sorry that he took the lives of four people and caused many more people grief and pain.

    If Tookie would have admitted his guilt, and apologized to the victim’s families I would have a different feeling on this issue. However, the time for him to do so has passed.

    You can not reform when you deny your responsiblity for the very injustice you caused.

  9. 9
    Jason says:

    Cory Maye would be a much better poster child for the anti-death penalty crusaders than Tookie ever was. I think there are many more on death row who committed crimes not nearly as brutal as Tookie’s and clemency for Tookie is only fair if it is granted to all those on death row.

    I don’t think of the death penalty as a deterrent generally but wonder if the widespread media attention this execution will recieve might leave an impression on those who might want to follow in his footsteps.

  10. 10
    rilkefan says:

    He supposedly negotiated a somewhat successful truce between the Crips and the Bloods. His book about why you don’t want to spend your life in prison is in the top 3k at Amazon. I couldn’t care less who wrote it as long as it’s getting read.

  11. 11
    Pug says:

    Agree with you, John, except for the part about opposing the death penalty. I don’t oppose it for particularly heinous crimes. Tookie seems to fall into that category, in addition to all the collateral damage his founding of the Crips has inflicted.

    I think use of it should be judicious, though, like for the guy who buried the little nine year-old girl alive in Florida. Him? Fine, execute him. Some death penalty proponents, however, seem a little overly zealous to me. If an innocent man is executed in our name, what does that make us?

    It’s an interesting question because there is now a review by the prosecutor’s office of an execution in Texas in 1993 of what could, quite possibly, be an innocent man. His name was Cantu and there appears to be some valid evidence of his innocence. So much so that the Bexar County prosecutor, and former judge who turned down one of his appeals I believe, has launched an investigation into the case.

  12. 12
    Mike S says:

    The DP is one of those issues that I have an incredably hard time nailing myself down on. I oppose it for all of the reasons you mention above plus personal experiance with a family friend who was framed for murder and spent 25 years in prison before the trial was overturned in 1996.

    On the other hand I think there are some people who just don’t deserve to live. I don’t know where I stand on Tookie. I’ve seen first hand the destruction he cause with the formation of the crips. I’ve lived in neighborhoods that made me afraid to go out my door at night. And I’ve known people killed by the Venice crips. And as near as I can tell his books don’t seem to have had all that much of an effect. He couldn’t even keep his own son out of gangs.

    I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to nail myself down for or against the DP.

  13. 13
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    Stay out of LA. It is going to get hot here.

  14. 14
    Mike S says:

    Stay out of LA. It is going to get hot here.

    I’m not so sure it will. And one of the reasons I would oppose clemancy for him is because of the ham-handed way his supporters threatened the Gropenator with inner city violence if he didn’t commute the sentance.

    This is far different than the King verdict. When that came down I was immediately calling friends to find a place to stay since I was living in Venice at the time.

  15. 15
    Mr Furious says:

    I’m with you John. I have a problem with the death penalty in practice, not theory. And I do not think Tookie Williams is worthy of this support.

    There are actually people on death row who deserve to be defended and have their cases publicized. Tookie Williams is not one of them.

    I just finished my piece on this at my place:

    Here’s where I really go off the liberal rails. I have no problem with the death penalty.

    In theory, and for certain cirumstances. Period. It doesn’t mean I am a “hang ’em high” gung-ho advocate, but I don’t have a problem with executing those guilty of heinous crimes. I realize that gets me in some shit with some of my readers (I am looking across the street) but that’s the truth. If I have a problem, it’s with the implementation of the death penalty, and the chance that the wrong person might be executed, but not with the punishment itself.

    As for Tookie Williams, he may very well be “redeemed.” He might be doing good work with his writing against gangs. Fine. But he still was convicted of, and admitted to, multiple murders. There is no question as to his guilt or innocence. He may be working against gangs now, but he still founded the Crips—who are responsible for countless more death, crimes and misery. If the Governator believes Williams does more good for society alive than on a gurney and grants clemency (he won’t), that’s fine, and lucky for Williams. I am not lobbying for a needle to go in his arm, but I will not give it a moment’s thought if it does.

    I often question whether it is “civilized” for me to think this way, but ultimately, it’s not hard for me to think in terms of whether or not a person deserves to be executed or not. If the crime is bad enough, the circumstances are clear enough, and an incredibly high standard regarding that person’s guilt is met, I’ve got no problem with the ultimate punishment.

    All of that said, I support a moratorium on all executions in this country to address the complete fiasco that is the legal system in regards to capital cases and the unfair implementation of the death penalty. I would rather never hold another execution than have a single innocent person executed.

    So count me as FOR the death penalty, but even more FOR things like the Innocence Project.

    There’s more, but that’s most of it.

  16. 16
    Davebo says:

    Like John, I too oppose the death penalty but for purely fiscal reasons really.

    However California does indeed have the death penalty. And the punishment fits Tookie’s crime just fine with me.

  17. 17
    Another Jeff says:

    I have no problem with Tookie taking a dirt nap either, but if someone is truly and adamantly opposed to the death penalty, this is the EXACT kind of case where you need to oppose it.

    I’m sorry, but the idea that there are people saying “I’m opposed to the death penalty in most cases, but since this guy is obviously guilty, i don’t have a big problem with it in this case” is crazy.

    I mean, maybe i’m being a little naive here, but i’d like to think that even the most pro-death penalty person wouldn’t wanna execute someone where there’s significant reasonable doubt.

  18. 18
    Paddy O'Shea says:

    Mike S: Yr wrong. This guy is a gangster god here.

  19. 19

    […] In all likelihood Tookie Williams will be executed tonight. The thing is, he expressed no remorse – he maintains that he’s innocent – and the jury didn’t say “death penalty unless you reform yourself”. The people he’s convicted of killing remain dead, and a jury of his peers has made their sentence. There’s no exculpatory evidence that even remotely says he didn’t do the crime. […]

  20. 20
    Mr Furious says:

    Thanks for the mention, John. ‘preciate it.

  21. 21
    Steve S says:

    I’m opposed to the Death Penalty unless the level of evidence is sufficient to fall under the Constitution’s definition of evidence for Treason. That is, I don’t buy “Well we’re pretty sure we think he did it” as evidence.

    Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

    Are there two Witnesses to the shooting?

    It sounds as though we have Alfred Coward and Tony Sims saying yes he did it. As long as their statements were not coerced through torture, or as part of some plea bargain, that’s good enough for me.

  22. 22

    I’m sorry, but the idea that there are people saying “I’m opposed to the death penalty in most cases, but since this guy is obviously guilty, i don’t have a big problem with it in this case” is crazy.

    If you want to argue against my position I suggest you take it point by point and do so.

    I fail to see how you can disagee with this statement: “You can not reform when you deny your responsiblity for the very injustice you caused.”

    where there’s significant reasonable doubt.

    Oh right, right. He was wrongfully convicted on 4 different murder charges.

    Give me a break. I’m not going to blindly go with “the justice system is broke” schtick in this case. You’re gonna need some damn good evidence to convince me he didn’t kill any of those people.

  23. 23
    rilkefan says:

    Willis hasn’t done any homework. How he can be too lazy to glance at TalkLeft is beyond me.

  24. 24
    ppGaz says:

    I am not a supporter of the death penalty in general, because I don’t trust government to do it right, and also because I don’t like the idea of giving government that kind of power when it is not absolutely necessary. Government is hideously flawed.

    I don’t think that law and order require the death penalty. Justice … that’s a different matter. Justice has a somewhat personal quality to it. But in that regard, I don’t think it is government’s job to be hired as executioner by people who want executions. The fact that some people want them, or even a majority who want them, would not sway me. Government is too goofy to be given that kind of responsibility.

    Having said all that, and looking at this case in the context of the reality of the time, if I were Arnold, I wouldn’t grant clemency either. I don’t see that he has been given the basis for granting it. There seems no particular reason to question the man’s guilt, and that being the case, his claim of innocence doesn’t lead me to see him as rehabilitated.

  25. 25
    rilkefan says:

    Steve S, TDV – from the above:

    All of the witnesses who implicated Williams were criminals who were given significant incentives to testify against him and ongoing benefits for their testimony.

  26. 26
    Another Jeff says:

    If you want to argue against my position I suggest you take it point by point and do so.

    First off, Nacissistic Voter, i wasn’t responding to your point specifically as much as the general sentiment that “I oppose the death penalty, but this guy is so obviously guilty that it’s okay in this case”. I’m saying i would hope nobody supports it unless the person is obviously guilty, so I’m not sure why this case is different.

    Since you want me to respond to you, I’ll say that your explanation about his lack of remorse and accountability is fine with me.

    Oh right, right. He was wrongfully convicted on 4 different murder charges.

    Give me a break. I’m not going to blindly go with “the justice system is broke” schtick in this case. You’re gonna need some damn good evidence to convince me he didn’t kill any of those people.

    OK, on that point i’ll say that maybe i didn’t state that clearly enough. I’m not implying that there’s doubt about Williams guilt. My point was, as i just said, that there are people saying it’s obvious Williams did it and that’s why, despite their usual opposition to the death penalty they support it here. Again, I’m saying that seems to be implying that there are pro-death penalty types that support it even when someone isn’t obviously guilty.

  27. 27

    Thanks for the reply Jeff.

    P.S. What’s a Nacissist?

    Heh.

  28. 28

    Gonna need to see your source for that claim rilkefan…

  29. 29
    Another Jeff says:

    P.S. What’s a Nacissist?

    Fair enough, if i’m gonna for humor, i should probably spell the word right.

  30. 30
    rilkefan says:

    TDV, see my 5:38 link. Or go read TalkLeft.

  31. 31
    Pb says:

    More here; I don’t see the problem with a former criminal, a gang leader, arguing that he’s reformed over the past *twenty-four years* or so, and therefore, shouldn’t be executed. It seems petty to me that the state would also want to force a confession out of him, after he has maintained his innocence all this time. What if he did confess, say whatever they wanted him to say–would that make him a liar? Would he then be guilty of perjury?

  32. 32

    after he has maintained his innocence all this time

    I’m fairly certain Tookie has only started to claim he is completely innocent recently. I could be wrong but that is what I heard.

  33. 33
    John Cole says:

    I posted some Talk Left links. I just sort of assumed everyone would go there first when they heard clemency was denied.

    I did.

  34. 34
    Steve says:

    I am pretty much a flaming liberal, but when it comes to the death penalty, I’m more in the John Cole camp – the idea that some crimes are so awful that they deserve death doesn’t really bother me, but I have real problems with the way it plays out in practice, the racial disparities, the inadequate counsel that many defendants receive.

    But still, I wasn’t sure where to come out on this one. I talked to one of my California friends, a hardcore San Francisco liberal who I assumed would be anti-death penalty in all cases. I was surprised when she didn’t think “Tookie” deserved a break.

    “But what about this anti-gang work he’s supposedly doing?” I asked. “Isn’t it possible he would benefit society more if he did life in prison?”

    She saw that point, but for her the kicker was exactly what Arnold pointed to – the fact that he hasn’t owned up to the killings. It’s one thing for a guy to admit his crimes and try to make things right. It’s another thing for him to continue to protest his innocence in the light of pretty overwhelming evidence. It calls his contrition into doubt altogether.

    Once upon a time when I worked for the state parole board, I saw this kind of thing all the time – people who had been model prisoners, best case for parole you could imagine, routinely turned down because they refused to admit their crimes and demonstrate contrition. It makes some sense. Of course, if you ever did get sent to prison as an innocent man, this kind of policy would put you in a pretty tough spot!

  35. 35
    Dan says:

    “People talk about the death penalty as being a deterant to crime. So far, it seems that Tookie is a better deterant than the death penalty. What do we have to gain by going through with this execution?”

    Tookie will be an even better deterrent when he’s dead — it sends a clear message that acting sorry for what you did, later in life, won’t get you out of a multiple homicide rap.

    What message would sparing him send? “Go ahead and run wild, you an always act sorry later”.

  36. 36
    Pb says:

    My opinion is, they probably shouldn’t have waited this long. You know, Tookie’s been in prison now basically about as long as he had been out of it before. He’s had just as long to redeem himself in prison as he had previously had to be alive. If they want to lie and claim that our penal system is about redemption and penance instead of about punishment and vengeance, then they should have killed him back in 1979, before he had a chance to redeem himself.

    Back then they could have patted themselves on the back and said to everyone “look, we’re protecting you from a vicious murderer, he’s a monster, no way he could ever be reformed”. Now, I think it’s a lot harder to make that case.

  37. 37
    Brian says:

    Nothing is going to happen here in L.A., because no one outside Tookie’s Hollywood gang of apologists gives a shit about him. The younger gang members don’t seem to give a damn about him, and he’s no symbol of oppression like Rodney King was.

    Anyone who keeps talking about his guilt being decided on government-bought testimony is perpetuating a myth. There were other witnesses who testified who did not stand to gain from this testimony. He was justifiably found guilty, and sentenced to death by law-abiding citizens of this city. When the Governator made his decision to deny clemency, he took into account these citizens, and the present-day law-abiding locals he represents. All the talk over Tookie left out any benefit his clemency would provide to us.

    I am not swayed at all by any argument that posits that Tookie could speak to the gang bangers of today and provide hope and peace where none would exist without his presence. Bullshit! There are more gang crimes and deaths in this town, and in nearby Crip-dominated towns like Compton, than ever before. Tookie had two dozen years to prove he could make a difference, and to be honest about the murders he committed. Instead, he chose to fake innocence and make token contributions to hopefully create enough of an illusion about his guilt and his potential for good to fool the public. It didn’t work. He couldn’t sell it, and now we (L.A.’s citizens) get our chance to balance the scales…..finally.

  38. 38
    rilkefan says:

    I think Tookie has admitted to other crimes, for those concerned about that issue and convinced he’s guilty of these particular crimes.

  39. 39

    […] Regarding the denial of clemency by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to condemned killer Tookie Williams, John Cole says, I have a lot of reasons why I dislike and oppose the death penalty, and not one of them has to do with a concern for the fate of guilty men. I dislike the death penalty because it is irreversible, it is arbitrary, it is seemingly enforced in a haphazard manner, it seems to be more about race and class than guilt, it does not seem to prevent crime, and because I see no need to have a system that could kill one innocent man when we could keep them all imprisoned and avoid that risk. […]

  40. 40

    Arnold Schwarzenegger Denies Clemency In Stanley “Tookie” Williams Case

    Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has denied clemency in the case of Crips gang creator Stanley “Tookie” Williams. This man deserves to die. Matter of fact this guy should have died shortly after the 4 people he killed in 1979. The fact…

  41. 41
    Insufficiently Sensitive says:

    “What do we have to gain by going through with this execution? What do we have to lose?”

    Society gains when the polished pleas of the glitterati, trumpeted by mass media which selects said pleas for their provenance instead of their logic, are worth no more than the words of Joe Blow.

    Society would lose if the difference between paying the penalty for a crime and not doing so was merely dependent on the perp successfully recruiting some advocates with Names.

  42. 42
    Tom says:

    Steve,

    “the racial disparities”

    I’m also concerned about the racial disparities connected with capital punishment. That is, I’d like to know why a white murderer is significantly more likely to get the death penalty than a black murderer.

    You can look it up at the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

    The “racial disparities” most people are talking about refers to the fact that the percentage of blacks on death row is greater than the percentage of blacks in the general population. Of course, focusing on that statistic ignores the significant difference in the rate at which various groups commit murder.

    The reality is that a white person who commits murder is more likely to get the death penalty than a black person who commits murder. I can think of multiple reasons for this. One may be that a greater percentage of murders committed by white people are the truly heinous crimes (i.e. serial killings, which are disportionately committed by white losers) that draw death sentences. Another might be that given the persistence of de facto segregation, black murderers tend to be tried by black juries — which are often less likely to issue death sentences — in the areas where they commit their crimes.

    “two wrongs don’t make a right”

    Well, no. But executing a murderer isn’t a wrong. It’s the practice of justice. When I win a case for a client and get a court to make the defendant pay for the damage he caused, that’s a right, not a wrong. It’s not a “wrong” to deprive a kidnapper of liberty. Etc., etc.

  43. 43
    Brian says:

    The other crimes are less heinous, and nevertheless they are irrelevant here. Enough of the extralegal maneuvering, please…….Tookie wrote books; Tookie admits to “other crimes”; Tookie might be innocent; Tookie was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; Tookie has done anti-gang work.; Tookie’s defense counsel was inadequate. All are irrelevant, dishonest, and/or insufficient when compared to his crimes, his lack of admission to these crimes, his not naming names of fellow criminals, and his legacy of The Crips.

    This piece of shit is finally going to receive his comeuppance.

  44. 44
    John Cole says:

    Tom- Actually, I believe the color of the victim is the best predictor. There are others who know the numbers better than I do, and I am pretty sure you just opened up a whole can of worms with your argument.

  45. 45
    Tom says:

    John,

    The color of the victim is also relevant, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

    We’re now going beyond what the raw statistics can tell us, but consider this:

    It is not African-Americans generally, but a particular subculture of black America that accounts for blacks’ elevated murder (and victimization) rates. That is, outside the ‘hood, a black person isn’t much more likely to be a murderer or a murder victim than anyone else.

    It looks to me (based on the limited information I have available) that a greater share of murders that involve blacks may involve gang rivalries, fights, crimes of passion, etc. While it may still be a tragedy when a young gang member gets killed, it just doesn’t generate the same “hang ‘im high” sentiment you get when you’ve torn apart a four-year-old with pliers and then abused the corpse. And the kind of sicko that does that kind of thing tends disproportionately to be white.

    Also, it would be interesting to do a systematic survey of the ethnic composition of the juries that hand down capital sentences. If my hypothesis is correct — that murders by blacks generally involves other blacks as victims, in areas where the jury pool is disproportionately black — then I think we can discount racism as a reason for the differences in capital sentencing you cited based on the victim’s ethnicity.

  46. 46
    Al Maviva says:

    Part of the story is missing here. Ah-nuld was asked if it was a hard decision. He indicated that it was pretty easy, given that the reformed Mr. Williams dedicated one of his books to a guy who escaped from San Quentin, killing a judge and paralyzing a prosecutor along the way. Couldn’t have helped his case, that’s for sure.

  47. 47

    It’s not a “wrong” to deprive a kidnapper of liberty. Etc., etc.

    I never said it was–but you can deprive them of libery by life in jail.

    It’s also cheaper and leads by example. If killing is legally wrong, then killing a killer is still wrong in the ethical sense.

  48. 48
  49. 49

    […] John Cole summarizes nicely: I am glad he ‘reformed’ after a while in jail, and I am glad he managed to do a few good things after being sentenced to death for his unspeakable crimes- maybe his God will take that into account tonight. But personally, I have a really hard time getting worked up over this case, and think there are far better cases to champion for those who dislike the death penalty than a multiple murderer who still refuses to admit his own guilt.  […]

  50. 50
  51. 51
    Sojourner says:

    Tookie will be an even better deterrent when he’s dead—it sends a clear message that acting sorry for what you did, later in life, won’t get you out of a multiple homicide rap.

    Not true. The evidence that the death penalty serves as a deterrant is spotty at best. The bottom line is the death penalty has one goal – to exact vengeance against someone.

    I haven’t followed this much. Just how strong was the case against him?

  52. 52
    scs says:

    I heard a relative of one of his victims on tv say that he questioned Tookie’s literacy and questioned whether he even wrote the books. They think some anti-death penalty activists wrote it for him and he signed off on it. Does anyone know more about this?

  53. 53
    scs says:

    The bottom line is the death penalty has one goal – to exact vengeance against someone.

    And apparently it works. Murderers such as Ted Bundy were reported to be very scared to die. It’s the one thing that got to them. Otherwise they spent their time just plotting to get out of prison and marrying female fans. Why not give their victim’s families that justice?

  54. 54

    I have spent very little time on this case, as if I was going to be called on to deliberate. I strongly suspect he is guilty. Someone here said his bestselling book sold only three hundred copies, which would suggest that if Tookie were Sue Grafton he could be walking the streets today.

    Capital punishment is murder. It is the ultimate premeditated murder. The government, in this case, has planned for twenty-five years to kill this guy. If killing a person is bad, then government-sanctioned and performed killing is bad. You don’t get closure from killing someone. Ask any murderer.

    Killing another human being is a tragedy for all involved. Each killing echoes throughout humanity. State-sanctioned murder is as reprehensible as Tookie executing that family (if he did). Maybe more. State-sanctioned killing sets a standard for human behavior. It hardens the heart to the next killing. It devalues life.

  55. 55
    rilkefan says:

    he questioned Tookie’s literacy and questioned whether he even wrote the books.

    No comment on Tookie, but something similar has been said about a certain guy from Stratford with little Latin and less Greek.

  56. 56
    scs says:

    from Stratford with little Latin and less Greek.

    They still theorize it wasn’t Shakespeare. Might be true.

  57. 57
    Doug says:

    One blogger I read, had libertarian objections to the death penalty. He put his reservations like this:

    It’s hard to question the government’s competence to do something as simple as paving potholes or hauling garbage and then blithely give it the very power of life and death.

    My concerns about the death penalty are similar, though I suspect I have a more optimistic view about the abilities of our fellow citizens who work for the government. But, a missed pothole is not quite as tragic as executing an innocent man. And, since I’m not comfortable that the fact-finding process in capital trials is error-free, I can’t be comfortable about implementation of the death penalty generally.

    But my specific thoughts about the Tookie Williams matter don’t even deal with that. Even though he claims he’s innocent, I’m just taking for granted that he was properly convicted. And, at this time, I’ll put forth my disclaimer that I haven’t followed the case closely at all. My understanding is that 1) Mr. Williams was convicted of killing some people about 30+ years ago in a manner that was cold-blooded and without any mitigating circumstances. 2) He denies having done it. 3) He has done some very good things with his time in jail, apparently working to keep kids away from gangs. 4) He’s scheduled to be executed tonight.

    Based on the facts above, my thoughts on why clemency should be considered are pretty coldly pragmatic. I know there is an emotional desire to obtain retribution for the lives Mr. Williams took. But, I think clemency should be granted, if not necessarily in this case, in cases of a similar nature. First, killing Mr. Williams is not going to bring back the victims. Second, any deterrent effect of the death penalty is going to be the same if the death penalty is carried out in most cases rather than all cases. Third, the world –assuming as an irreversible status quo, the world as it was after Mr. Williams committed the murders– is at least marginally better because Mr. Williams worked hard to make it a little better. Fourth, all things being equal, we’d rather have death row inmates working hard to make the world a little better than doing nothing at all or working to make it worse. Fifth, (and, pragmatically, this might be the most important) death row inmates are likely easier to control and guard if they have something to live for.

    So, if you grant clemency here and there for death row inmates who have worked exceptionally hard to do a little bit of good in the world after their heinous crimes, you are not likely to reduce the deterrent effect, such as it is, of the death penalty. You are likely to encourage future death row inmates to work hard to do a little bit of good. And, you make death row inmates a more controllable population in the prison. So, I do not know enough about the Williams case to say whether he’s exactly the right sort of candidate for clemency, but certainly I think there are probably cases like his where clemency would be the right course of action.

    Like I said, this doesn’t satisfy the emotional desire of retribution for the deaths caused by Mr. Williams. But, I think we should set our policy rationally rather than emotionally.

  58. 58
    Sojourner says:

    And apparently it works.

    Works at what? If the goal is vengence, why not show executions in prime time? Why not allow the victims’ families to serve as the executioners?

  59. 59
    scs says:

    Why not allow the victims’ families to serve as the executioners?

    Hey I’m all for it.

  60. 60
    Tom says:

    Disenfranchised,

    I think you missed my point. My point was that by your logic — which considers murder and execution morally equivalent — then kidnapping and imprisonment are morally equivalent. Or theft and fines or damages awards. Consider the following three situations:

    1. With kidnapping, a person deprives another person of liberty. With imprisonment, the government, after due process of law, deprives a person of liberty.

    2. With theft, a person takes another person’s money. When it imposes a fine, the government, after due process of law, takes a person’s money.

    3. With murder, a person deprives another person of life. With execution, the government, after due process of law, deprives a person of life.

    Tell me how situation #3 differs from situations ##1 and 2.

  61. 61
    scs says:

    So, if you grant clemency here and there for death row inmates who have worked exceptionally hard to do a little bit of good in the world after their heinous crimes, you are not likely to reduce the deterrent effect, such as it is, of the death penalty. You are likely to encourage future death row inmates to work hard to do a little bit of good.

    Sorry but the cynic in me wonders whether death row inmates who suddenly become do-gooders do so because of a true conversion, or because they think it’s the surest bet to get off death row.

  62. 62
    Sojourner says:

    Hey I’m all for it.

    Is this part of your new tough guy bravado? If so, it’s rather tacky.

  63. 63
    Sojourner says:

    Sorry but the cynic in me wonders whether death row inmates who suddenly become do-gooders do so because of a true conversion, or because they think it’s the surest bet to get off death row.

    I guess it didn’t occur to you that by sticking to his claims of innocence, Tookie secured his own death sentence. So much for your cynicism.

  64. 64
    Tom says:

    Bob in Pacifica,

    “Capital punishment is murder. It is the ultimate premeditated murder. The government, in this case, has planned for twenty-five years to kill this guy. If killing a person is bad, then government-sanctioned and performed killing is bad.”

    See my response to Disenfranchised, above. If it’s true that “if killing a person is bad, then government-sanctioned…killing is bad”, why is it not true that “if taking someone’s money is bad, then government-sanctioned taking someone’s money is bad”?

    One of the hallmarks of a civilized society is that its punishments are proportionate to the crimes for which they are imposed. Just as it would be uncivilized to sentence a man to life in prison for running a red light (as efficient as that might be in advancing society’s interest in suppresssing red-light running), it is uncivilized to respond to murder with a punishment that differs only in degree from that which is imposed for burglary or securities fraud.

    This is not an “emotional desire of retribution.” This is a purely rational desire for justice.

    I am nowhere near convinced that capital punishment coarsens society and desensitizes us to the value of human life. If anything, the reluctance to respond to murder with a punishment commensurate to the seriousness of the crime suggests that we have already become thus desensitized. (The 1970s — when there was a pause in capital sentencing in the United States — were a time of rapidly increasing violent crime rates, which would seem to refute your argument.)

    Murder is a crime that inflicts an infinite loss. It is not enough to respond with a finite punishment. A murder victim loses everything she is. A murderer should not be allowed to keep anything of himself.

  65. 65
    scs says:

    I guess it didn’t occur to you that by sticking to his claims of innocence, Tookie secured his own death sentence

    Even Ted Bundy insisted he was innocent, for many many years, I think until the very end when he wanted to use information about where he put the bodies as a bargaining chip. Murderers are not stupid. Tookie probably made a decision that confessing would end up hurting his chances with the anti-death penalty types more than it helped him with the Governor.

  66. 66
    Brian says:

    The death penalty as deterrent is of no interest to me.

    The death penalty seen as state-sanctioned murder is of no interest to me.

    The death penalty as a method of balancing the scales somehow for all law-abiding citizens is of interest to me. It is, in a vague, immeasurable way, I think, a way where a society shows that monsters shall be eliminated and have no place in society, even if only locked up and allowed to share the oxygen we breath. In this sense, it is a highly civilized action.

  67. 67
    scs says:

    Murder is a crime that inflicts an infinite loss

    I agree. I think that if a murderer were truly reformed, he or she would want to stand up and take responsibilty for their crime and sacrifice their own life for justice. That’s what I would do if I ever committed a cold blooded murder. I couldn’t live with myself after that and would want to die. We ask soldiers and police officers to serve their country up to the point of sacrificing their own lives. Why should we demand less of murderers?

  68. 68
    rilkefan says:

    Tom, the point is that the guy’s in prison, killing him isn’t going to do anything but satisfy some people’s blood-lust. It’s not going to make society safer. Next you’ll be telling us we should rack Tookie to death over the course of a week, or longer if the doctors can keep him alive. That’ll keep people from running red lights.

    “One of the hallmarks of a civilized society” is abolition of the death penalty. I’m not happy that my country is in the company of Saudia Arabia and China on this.

  69. 69
    Sojourner says:

    Tookie probably made a decision that confessing would end up hurting his chances with the anti-death penalty types more than it helped him with the Governor.

    Nonsense. Any attorney with half a brain would have warned him that an admission of guilt is a requirement for two things: parole and getting off death row. Which anti-death penalty types are you referring to that have any clout? Certainly not Arnold.

  70. 70
    Sojourner says:

    I agree. I think that if a murderer were truly reformed, he or she would want to stand up and take responsibilty for their crime and sacrifice their own life for justice. That’s what I would do if I ever committed a cold blooded murder. I couldn’t live with myself after that and would want to die. We ask soldiers and police officers to serve their country up to the point of sacrificing their own lives. Why should we demand less of murderers?

    How old are you? The more I read, the younger you appear to be.

  71. 71
    Steve S says:

    I’m also concerned about the racial disparities connected with capital punishment. That is, I’d like to know why a white murderer is significantly more likely to get the death penalty than a black murderer.

    You can look it up at the DOJ’s Bureau of Justice Statistics.

    Actually Tom. No. You made the claim, you now have to support it with evidence.

    We’re not your fucking research library.

  72. 72
    Brian says:

    Please do not see any approval of Tookie’s death sentence as “blood lust”. I do not drool over this event. It is not a happy occasion, and anyone who treats it as such is a demented fool.

    That said, reiterating my previous post, it is uncivilized to allow a monster like Tookie Williams (or Ted Bundy, or John Wayne Gacy, etc.) to breath our air. It is a statement of sincerely civilized society that it deals with such parasitic life forms appropriately.

    Any comparison to Iran or Saudi Arabia is inappropriate and false.

  73. 73
    scs says:

    Not in the case of Tookie. He was too far gone, too many murders, too much evidence, to expect any clemency, even if he confessed. Plus people who murder tend to have a ton of denial, they end up thinking THEY are the victims.

    As for anti-death penalty types, they made his cause a celebrated case. Rumors are they helped him with his book publishing. That’s how we even heard about him in the first place.

  74. 74
    Steve S says:

    How old are you? The more I read, the younger you appear to be.

    Gotta wonder. scs appears to be terribly naive.

  75. 75
    scs says:

    How old are you?

    Please. You just don’t want to think about things in new ways.

  76. 76
    Steve says:

    I see Tom raised the old canard about whites being more likely to get the death penalty. This is true, for the exact reason John noted – whites are more likely to kill white people, just as blacks are more likely to kill blacks.

    People who murder black people are significantly less likely to get the death penalty. That’s a significant problem.

  77. 77

    I think you missed my point. My point was that by your logic—which considers murder and execution morally equivalent—then kidnapping and imprisonment are morally equivalent. Or theft and fines or damages awards. Consider the following three situations:

    I did miss your point, and I now see that it is petty and ridiculous. I do not think the DP is equal to murder but it is still killing. You comparison to kidnapping is not only ridiculous it is laughable.

  78. 78
    scs says:

    People who murder black people are significantly less likely to get the death penalty

    .

    I would agree with the poster above and imagine that a lot of black people who get murdered are related to gang activity. Stands to reason juries are more likely to see them as victims of a bad environment and more likely to be rehabilitated.

  79. 79
  80. 80
    Sojourner says:

    Please. You just don’t want to think about things in new ways.

    I would agree with the poster above and imagine that a lot of black people who get murdered are related to gang activity. Stands to reason juries are more likely to see them as victims of a bad environment and more likely to be rehabilitated.

    Is this an example of thinking about things in new ways? If so, you’d better try a whole lot harder. Bigotry is hardly a new concept.

  81. 81
    BIRDZILLA says:

    If it had been GREY DAIS he would have granted instant clemency just like all liberals do

  82. 82
    Tom says:

    OK, Steve, here ya go, from the 2002 update of the relevant DOJ publications:

    Homicide offenders by race:

    45.9% of homicides committed by whites (including Hispanics/Latinos); 52.1% of homicides committed by blacks; 2.0% committed by “other”.

    (from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/homicide/race.htm)

    Death row inmates by race:

    1,851 white, 1,390 black, 74 other.

    (from http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/glance/drrace.htm)

    Combining these statistics, we see that blacks are (1) more likely than whites to commit murder; and (2)less likely to receive the death penalty for murder.

    Other publications on the DOJ website, which break homicide down by cause (i.e. domestic violence, felony murder, drug related, etc.) indicate that a large proportion of murders by blacks are drug-related, which provides further evidence that the elevated black murder rate is confined to a small violent subculture, where murders are more likely to be “garden-variety” inter-thug killings and less likely to get juries mad enough to impose death sentences.

    So Steve — Does hearing this upset your cherished beliefs so much that it causes you to abandon your usual courtesy, or do you just like saying “fuck” a lot?

  83. 83
    scs says:

    Bigotry is hardly a new concept

    I think you may have misunderstood my post. As I read it I saw that it was vague. Let me correct it for you.

    Stands to reason juries are more likely to see the murderers as victims of a bad environment and more likely to be rehabilitated

    .To expand on that, if a murderer is young and comes from a bad environemnt,ie poor, not intact family, high crime area with gangs, they are perhaps given more faith to reform than an adult who comes from a middle class, intact family. As gang activity and the murders that can result from them, are more common in poor urban areas, which tend to be more populated by blacks, it stands to reason that blacks who commit gang related crimes are more likely to get clemency. Nothing bigoted about that.

  84. 84
    Tom says:

    Sojourner,

    I urge you to follow the links I posted above in response to Steve’s invitation, and surf around a bit. You’ll find some suggestions that scs’s speculation about murder among blacks being often a gang-related thing isn’t all that unfounded.

    Why is it “bigotry” to say that? The opposite is true: The vast majority of black people aren’t unusually murderous. The elevated rate of homicide among blacks can be laid almost entirely at the feet of a handful of truly evil bastards, mostly in the inner cities, who kill and get killed with enough frequency to elevate the murder rate of the entire black population.

  85. 85
    Tom says:

    Disenfranchised,

    “You comparison to kidnapping is not only ridiculous it is laughable.”

    That’s an argument?

    Tell me why it’s “laughable.” Depriving a person of liberty, absent legal cause, is wrong. Depriving a person of life, without legal cause, is also wrong. What’s your point?

  86. 86
    Tom says:

    Steve,

    “People who murder black people are significantly less likely to get the death penalty. That’s a significant problem.”

    If it’s a problem, the solution is easy enough: Execute enough murderers of black people to balance things out.

    Of course, the murderers of black people are overwhelmingly black themselves, so what you’re essentially arguing for is that we should sentence many more black men to death.

    You are presuming that all murders are created equal, and assuming that the reason juries are less likely to sentence the (overwhelmingly black) murderers of black victims to death must be racism, conscious or “institutional.” But if you’d check the DOJ statistics I posted above, you’ll see that an unusually large percentage of black homicide offending and victimization occurs within the environment of the drug trade. Those circumstances are less likely to involve the special circumstances that the Supreme Court mandated must be present for a death sentence to be imposed.

  87. 87
    Perry Como says:

    Murder is a crime that inflicts an infinite loss. It is not enough to respond with a finite punishment. A murder victim loses everything she is. A murderer should not be allowed to keep anything of himself.

    In a perfect system this reasoning may be morally justifiable. Do you consider the justice system to be perfect? The question goes beyond this case. There’s a reason Illinois put a moratorium on the death penalty.

    With other punishments, there’s the chance of correcting a mistake. You can’t give someone the time they spent in jail back, but they can be compensated in other ways. Death is final. If the system makes a mistake — and they have, do and will continue to — then there is no way to correct it.

  88. 88
    ppGaz says:

    If it had been GREY DAIS he would have granted instant clemency just like all liberals do

    To say nothing of Purple Podium.

  89. 89

    Tom, the difference between your #1 and #2 and your #3 is that it involves killing a person. Tookie Williams allegedly killed four people. You can’t kill him four times. You can’t make an execution proportionate. It does not bring back the dead. It only kills someone else. Killing someone in the heat of passion, in a panic during the commission of a crime, whatever, does not equal the cool, passionless murder of a person strapped on a gurney.

    The more a government is allowed to kill, the more it kills.

    As far as statistics on murder versus capital punishment, you can string them any way you want it, although if you rely on the “eye for an eye” version of justice, it shouldn’t matter.

    Killing is wrong. Don’t you get it?

  90. 90
    Sojourner says:

    Why is it “bigotry” to say that? The opposite is true: The vast majority of black people aren’t unusually murderous. The elevated rate of homicide among blacks can be laid almost entirely at the feet of a handful of truly evil bastards, mostly in the inner cities, who kill and get killed with enough frequency to elevate the murder rate of the entire black population.

    Except that the differences in black/white rates have occurred for decades, which cannot be explained by inner city problems.

  91. 91

    Tell me why it’s “laughable.”

    Fine.

    First off, it a false analogy. Imprisonment is not the same as kidnapping.

    The main purpose of imprisonment is to seperate the people who will not follow the laws of soceity, away from the rest of soceity. Hopefully they will reform while in jail and many times people are let out early because it is determined that they have reformed.

    Second, to place the idea of executing a person on a comparable level to imprisoning them is ridiculous. I shouldn’t even need to say that. You should not that death is final, imprisonment is not.

    To be perfectly honest, I’m not in the mood to debate the DP, but I will say that there is no real reason to support it. The main justification for it is that it acts as a deterant. A vast majority of the evidence says it does not.

    From an economical standpoint, it is cheaper to keep someone in jail for life than keep them on death row.

    There is also the chance that an innocent may be executed. In fact, there is a 1993 case in Texas in which it might very well turn out that an innocent man was executed. Unless the system is perfect (and that is basically impossible) we should not allow the state to execute people. The death of 1 innocent person as a result of the DP is unnacceptable.

    And finally the state should not be so powerful that it has the authority to execute its own citizens. But I guess that is just the libertarian in me.

  92. 92

    *society

    I before E except after C, my ass…

  93. 93
  94. 94
    Doug says:

    Sorry but the cynic in me wonders whether death row inmates who suddenly become do-gooders do so because of a true conversion, or because they think it’s the surest bet to get off death row.

    I don’t really care *why* they’re being do-gooders. If they do good for 2 decades and get clemency, then you have 2 decades of them having done good. Which is sufficient in an of itself, in my opinion. It matters not a whit what their motivation was. In deciding to convict a guy for murder; by and large, I don’t care why he did it, only that he did it. By the same token, if the same guy is doing good works, I don’t care why he did it, only that he did it.

    And, if you grant clemency here and there for exceptional amounts of good works, perhaps it’s the “surest” bet to get off death row, but it’s still not a very sure way to get off death row. I think you have to offer death row inmates some hope in order to make them more easily controllable. And, if you’re not letting very many off the hook, you don’t lose whatever deterrent effect the death penalty might have.

    (Like I said above, I don’t know enough about Mr. Williams to conclude that he was a really good candidate for clemency. I just think that clemency in cases *like* his might be appropriate from time to time.)

  95. 95
    Tom says:

    Rilkefan,

    You’re focusing your argument entirely on the death penalty as a function of society’s interest in keeping itself safe. We obviously have a different view as to the role of a justice system.

    You seem to believe that if the death penalty is not a deterrent to crime (which it may or may not be; I’ve seen studies that suggest it’s not, but I think they state their conclusions more firmly than their findings justify), it should not be imposed — because government’s only legitimate interest in instituting a justice system is keeping society safe.

    Fair enough. But my reference to the penalties for red light running was intended to show that there is more involved in a justice system than merely the efficient deterrence of antisocial conduct.

    Now I hate red-light runners; one almost killed my father. Generally speaking, if you increase the punishment for something, you increase the deterrence; at least, that’s the logic for punishments that increase with the seriousness of the violation. If we really, really decided to crack down on red-light runners, we could ramp up the punishment. But there’s a limit to how much we could do that: At some point, the punishment for something as trivial as running a red light becomes unjust, no matter how effective a deterrent the punishment might be.

    That suggests that something more than mere social protection is at play in a justice system. (Maybe that’s why it’s called a justice system and not a “social-protection system”).

    If an abstract concept like “justice” operates to place some restraints at the upper edge in determining where punishments should be set, it should also operate to place some lower bounds on the minimum punishment imposed. The upper limits recognize that too great a punishment does an injustice to the violator. The lower limits recognize that too mild a punishment does an injustice to the victim.

    Now, if you want to write all this off to my “blood-lust,” feel free. (I do like my prime rib rare and my sushi still twitching.) On the other hand, I don’t think thinking as I do makes me a more violent-minded person. I hate murder, and I hate violence. I’ve been in a grand total of three fights in my life, none of which I started, all of which I expected to lose, and only one of which I could be said to have won. I like baseball better than football, and I’ve never been hunting (although certain late trout might quibble with that). If I have any “blood lust”, it has nothing to do with my attitudes on capital punishment, which I want to be safe, legal, and rare.

    Your invocation of the “rack” is probably your best argument. Clearly, society shouldn’t torture people to death, even the perverts who do unspeakable things to children. (My wife, like some ridiculous percentage of American woman, is caught up in the “forensic” fad, which has exposed me to way more gory details than I want to think about.) It’s true that if a man has ripped a toddler apart with pliers for sexual kicks (true story), we can’t do the same to him — where would we find the kind of psychopath to do that? (You might argue that performing a lethal injection would also require a psychopath; I’ll disagree until you can show me that public executioners are disproportionately violent people.)

    So we can’t inflict a mirror image of a murderer’s crime on him. We’re left to do the next best thing — which is to try, as much as is possible, to inflict a punishment of a similar kind on him. Finite punishments are appropriate to finite crimes; infinite crimes require infinite punishments.

  96. 96
    Doc Rampage says:

    Tom, I applaud your efforts to bring some logic to the argument, but you have to learn to recognize when you are dealing with someone who is just not capable of grasping a logical argument and quit wasting your time.

  97. 97
    Tom says:

    Sojourner,

    Except that the differences in black/white rates have occurred for decades, which cannot be explained by inner city problems.

    Which “rates” are you referring to?

    “Inner city problems” have been festering for three or four decades at least. I’ll stand by my statement that the elevated black murder rate is the doing of a small, violent subculture of the black population, not a function of any inherent murderousness in the general black population.

    If you can show me clearly that when you compare apples to apples — say, black victims of serial killers v. white victims of serial killers — AND show that the juries that decide the fate of black murderers are not themselves disproportionately black, then I’ll concede that there may be some invidious discrimination at play in capital sentencing. I don’t see any evidence of that.

  98. 98
    Tom says:

    Disenfranchised,

    There is also the chance that an innocent may be executed. In fact, there is a 1993 case in Texas in which it might very well turn out that an innocent man was executed. Unless the system is perfect (and that is basically impossible) we should not allow the state to execute people. The death of 1 innocent person as a result of the DP is unnacceptable.

    Why is it unacceptable for there to be any potentially fatal imperfection in government policy in this area alone?

    Government accidentally kills people by the boatload. Innocent civilians are killed in even the most just and most carefully conducted of wars. Ordinary police work invariably gets people shot as a result of mistaken identity, or run over during car chases. And since you’ve pointed out that people can be wrongfully convicted, what about people who are wrongly sentenced to prison terms, and then get raped and infected with AIDS or stuck with a shiv in the shower? They’re just as dead as a capital sentencee — more so, actually, since the most likely cause of death for a death-row inmate in our broken system is old age.

    Those dead because of the above government mistakes are just as irreversibly dead as a hypothetical person who’s mistakenly executed.

    There has never been a documented case of an innocent man being executed. Death-penalty opponents are salivating about ONE case. His death is a tragedy (if he was actually innocent) — but why the disproportionate outcry over that particular accidental death, when government causes hundreds if not thousands of others each year?

  99. 99
    Tom says:

    Disenfranchised, again:

    Second, to place the idea of executing a person on a comparable level to imprisoning them is ridiculous. I shouldn’t even need to say that. You should note that death is final, imprisonment is not.

    That’s the whole point.

    If I have my way, Robin Samsoe’s murderer doesn’t get to wank his way through his natural life’s worth of mental replays of his crime. (Much less get open-heart surgery at my expense.)

  100. 100
    The Right Hand says:

    Perry Como,

    With other punishments, there’s the chance of correcting a mistake. You can’t give someone the time they spent in jail back, but they can be compensated in other ways. Death is final. If the system makes a mistake—and they have, do and will continue to—then there is no way to correct it.

    You are indeed correct. You can’t give them the time back. Let’s say you have someone, age 20, convicted of a murder they did not commit.

    Forty years later, the real killer is found. They are released from prison, win a million-dollar lawsuit, and die of a heart attack five years later.

    How, exactly, have they been made whole?

    Every mistake is final.

    And Tookie made his. Can’t bring back the people he killed. Can’t bring back all the people the Crips have killed through the years, either.

    It is interesting to me that the same Left that want to give the Government cradle-to-grave control over the health care of our citizens distrust the government with the power to execute criminals.

    Unless, of course, they are the right criminals. How many of you lost sleep over Timothy McVeigh’s execution? Me, neither, but I think Tookie should take it like a man.

    And apologize to the families of his victims before he takes the long, cold sleep.

  101. 101
    Tom says:

    Bob,

    “Killing someone in the heat of passion, in a panic during the commission of a crime, whatever, does not equal the cool, passionless murder of a person strapped on a gurney.

    The more a government is allowed to kill, the more it kills.

    ***
    Killing is wrong. Don’t you get it?

    Well, no, I don’t. Because it’s not. Sometimes it’s right. Self-defense is one such instance. Depriving a murderer of life after due process of law is another.

    As for killing someone in the heat of passion, that’s not a capital crime. Only premediated murder is subject to the death penalty. (Killing someone “in a panic” during the commission of a premediated robbery might as well be premeditated murder, which it can be treated as; if you bring a loaded gun to a holdup, you’re presumed — rightly — to have a murderous mental state.)

    “The more a government is allowed to kill, the more it kills.” That’s a tautology — of course a government will kill more if it’s allowed to kill more. I think what you’re trying to argue is that once government is allowed to kill as punishment for murder, it will inevitably expand the scope of the death penalty. I see no prospect of that happening in the United States.

  102. 102

    Why is it unacceptable for there to be any potentially fatal imperfection in government policy in this area alone?

    Well that is simple…Because there is a completely viable alternative to the DP. The use of the DP is an unnecessary choice. As I said earlier, the main justification for it is that it works a a deterant. The evidence shows that it does no such thing. You might say the results are ambiguous, but I’d have to disagree.

  103. 103

    (Much less get open-heart surgery at my expense.)

    I don’t agree with that policy either. However, that isn’t a reason for me to support the death penalty. It is a reason for me to support prison policy reformation.

    If we were to rid the law books of all unconstitutional laws–specifically our draconian drug laws–I would support solitary confinment for all prisoners. They want to exercise? Run in a circle.

  104. 104
    Perry Como says:

    Government accidentally kills people by the boatload.

    The difference is intent. Capital punishment is premeditated.

  105. 105

    Another excellent point Perry. Didn’t even think of that.

  106. 106
    rilkefan says:

    Tom, reread your argument and you’ll see that based on what you wrote you got your lower-bound unjust-to-the-victim argument out of a nether region. The same place you got your objection to racking people vs putting them in wood chippers – sorry, strapping them down and injecting poison into them.

    Ok, so consider the possibility that capital punishment is counterproductive. How much is your desire to do executionary justice worth in terms of lives? (Generally speaking many of the punitive aspects of prisons are counterproductive, turning out many higher-criminal-skilled people and few higher-life-skilled people. Hope that’s worth “justice” too.)

    Then calculate the justifiable rate of execution of innocents, please.

    If society wants to express its disgust with a felon, life without parole is plenty awful. Do you want to be in a class with the repressive regimes of the world?

  107. 107
    ppGaz says:

    Then calculate the justifiable rate of execution of innocents, please.

    It’s zero. Zero is the acceptable rate. My entire argument against capital punishment is based on this fact.

    The government is not capable of 100% accuracy in administering justice. Therefore, since mistakes will be made, and no execution of innocents is acceptable, it follows that the death penalty itself is not acceptable.

    The point is not negotiable.

  108. 108

    That’s the whole point.

    I just realized what you meant by that. You took it the wrong way. I meant to place them on comparable levels in terms of ethics is ridiculous.

  109. 109

    Tom, I am against capital punishment because of what it means for having a government have a program for killing people. There are plenty of examples throughout history where governments have used the power to kill its citizens with zest. Plenty of Americans have apparently been put to death when they weren’t guilty of the crimes with which they had been charged. In no case did killing an incarcerated man bring anyone victim back to life.

    I am sure that you can think of plenty of reasons why killing can be okay. That’s how you are. You can be comfortable with killing, with the government killing in your name. I can’t.

    It’s unnecessary. It devalues human life. We need to join the rest of the civilized world and stop killing our prisoners.

    P.S.: We should stop torturing them too.

  110. 110

    The Governor had no political choice other than to allow Williams to be killed. In the last year he’d alienated most voters except for the solid right-wing of the Republican Party. If he’d chosen to pardon Williams, Arnold could have lost support from the far right, leaving him not only likely to lose the general election but possibly even facing a primary challenge. So the Nazi Spawn had no choice but to use the power of the state to kill a prisoner for political gain.

  111. 111
    Ric Locke says:

    Rilkefan, you’re the advocate of capital punishment here.

    You’re just selective about who you allow to perform it. Four people were executed fairly messily for the horrid crime of “dissing” Tookie Williams, and clearly you’re fine with that. So you’re in favor of capital punishment so long as your clients are the ones who get to do it.

    Ridiculous? Only slightly. It’s the same sort of thinking that leads to the “no tolerance for violence” notion. The bully beats up on the class nerd. Both of them get punished for “violence”. Please note who got punished twice. Both the bully and the victim do.

    What you really are is a snob. You want to live in a society that’s orderly enough for you to go about your business without much interference, but you reserve the right to be condescendingly critical of those who make that possible. You want cleanliness, but you aren’t willing to take out your own garbage — and you sneer at the people who so lower themselves.

    And you want everybody to respect you for your goodness. Me, I don’t see any goodness to respect.

    Regards,
    Ric

  112. 112
    Steve S says:

    So Steve—Does hearing this upset your cherished beliefs so much that it causes you to abandon your usual courtesy, or do you just like saying “fuck” a lot?

    I really don’t care. You made a statement and then expected everybody to go prove it for you instead of providing the requisite links.

    I thank you for the links, but you’re obviously an Asshat for making it a federal case to get you to substantiate your claims.

  113. 113
    Perry Como says:

    I am sure that you can think of plenty of reasons why killing can be okay.

    I can think of plenty of reasons why killing can be okay. Someone busting down my door in the middle of the night is one of them. Premeditated killing is probably the only thing I would consider unjustifiable on the micro level (keeping wars out of the discussion). That applies to individuals as well as the state.

  114. 114

    Brian says, “The death penalty as a method of balancing the scales somehow for all law-abiding citizens is of interest to me. It is, in a vague, immeasurable way, I think, a way where a society shows that monsters shall be eliminated and have no place in society, even if only locked up and allowed to share the oxygen we breath. In this sense, it is a highly civilized action.”

    George Bush knowingly lied to America to get us into a war. He admits to 30,000 Iraqis being killed. We’re around 2,100 or 2,200 Americans killed. The worst monsters don’t get put to death. They get statues of themselves in heroic poses. They get lots of money and great places to play golf. Their hagiographers write nice things about them.

    There is a certain mysticism about killing. Read Tom’s posts. He seems to think killing can be a pretty neat thing. Why else are people misled into stupid wars that will only enrich the few? Why else would oppressed poor people find an allure in fascism?

    I am reminded of Lester Bangs’ song, “Kill Him Again,” about Berkowitz. The protagonist in it says, “Sometimes I want to be a sender. That’s the way I can touch the stars.” Brian, maybe with Williams’ death you can imagine yourself touching the stars.

  115. 115
    rilkefan says:

    Ric Locke:

    Four people were executed [sic] … and clearly you’re fine with that.

    Bite me, please. After that go educate yourself on what “the death penalty does not have a deterrent effect” means.

    As far as my clients are concerned, if I have any they’re elementary particles and are either immortal or blow up in about as much time as you apparently spent thinking about your above comment (i.e., just barely long enough to detect with sophisticated instruments).

  116. 116
    rilkefan says:

    Tom, care to post the cross-tables of those stats? What’s the ratio of the likelihoods of getting the DP for killing a white person and killing a black person? In CA it’s about 3:1. Care to post the geographical and SES inequities?

  117. 117
    TheProudDuck says:

    Steve,

    You’re welcome. I didn’t bother posting the DOJ links originally because it was a year ago or so that I saw them and didn’t have the time to dig them up (was posting from work). I figured (wrongly) people wouldn’t automatically assume I was pulling figures out of my hat. Which I wasn’t, as you saw.

    Rilkefan,

    Re: the statistical issue, you obviously have a more extensive background in stats than I do. I don’t know what an SES inequity is. If it’s significant, maybe you can explain.

    As I wrote to Sojourner, if you can demonstrate to me that there are significant disparities in capital sentencing when you compare victims of different races who are otherwise similar — that is, you’re not comparing innocent little girl murder victims to crack dealers who got the sorry end of a deal gone bad — and that the juries that disproportionately acquit the (usually) black killers of black murder victims are not disproportionally black themselves, then I’ll reconsider my conclusion that there is little if any racial injustice connected with capital punishment. Right now, all I see is blacks committing more than half the murders and getting less than half the death sentences, which to my amateur’s mind looks like an argument that any racial disparity goes the other way.

  118. 118
    Tom says:

    Perry,

    The difference is intent. Capital punishment is premeditated.

    Wasn’t it “premeditated” when the Air Force blew up the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the Kosovo campaign? Surely there was an effective intent to kill somebody; the problem was that the wrong guys got killed. Same with capital punishment.

  119. 119
    Tom says:

    Bob,

    There are plenty of examples throughout history where governments have used the power to kill its citizens with zest. Plenty of Americans have apparently been put to death when they weren’t guilty of the crimes with which they had been charged.

    “Plenty”? I’m not aware of a single substantiated case.

    True, there are plenty of examples throughout history where governments abused their power. But the vast majority of the bodies the great 20th century tyrannies piled up were killed extrajudicially. The problem was totalitarianism, not capital punishment — which is why Churchill’s Britain didn’t perpetrate the Holocaust and Hitler’s Germany did.

    And speaking of Nazis, congrats on being the first past Godwin’s post. I’ll think of you while sacrificing a virgin tonight to sate my mystical blood lust.

    Damn, you people are predictable. Never enough to disagree; the other side has to be Nazis.

  120. 120

    Schwarzenegger denies clemency to Tookie Williams

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday denied clemency to Crips street gang founder Stanley Tookie Williams, who is now scheduled to die tonight at the hands of the people …

  121. 121
    Tom says:

    Disenfranchised,

    “Because there is a completely viable alternative to the DP.”

    And there, of course, we disagree. Because we have different understandings of what punishment is supposed to accomplish, and so we disagree as to what is “viable” to accomplish those purposes. You think it’s just social protection. I think there’s an abstract principle (Bob might call it a “mystical” one) involved.

    I wonder how a person’s stance on capital punishment is affected by whether he believes there are any actual, objective principles of ethics, or whether what we call principles are just the arbitrary ways we’ve chosen to order society. Those who think ethics is subjective would probably have no use for the “justice” argument. And based on utilitarian considerations alone, I think I’d probably agree that capital punishment’s actual and potential costs outweigh its uncertain benefits.

  122. 122
    Tom says:

    SteveS,

    You’re welcome. I didn’t have time originally to post the links to what I vaguely remembered reading a year ago, and figured people wouldn’t assume I was just pulling figures out of my hat. Which I wasn’t, as you saw.

    Rilke,

    You have the advantage of a deeper background in stats than I have. I don’t know what an SES inequity is. If it’s significant to your argument and you have time, maybe you could explain.

    If you can demonstrate to me that there are significant disparities in capital sentencing when you compare murder victims to similarly situated murder victims of a different race — that is, you’re not comparing ten-year-old girls with crack dealers who got the sorry end of a deal gone bad — and that the juries that decline to sentence the (usually) black murderers of black murder victims are not themselves disproportionately black, then I’ll consider that there may be some invidious discrimination at play. Otherwise, I see blacks committing more than half the murders and getting less than half the death sentences — which to my amateur’s mind suggests that the discrepancies run in the other direction as the one complained about.

  123. 123
    Tom says:

    Rilke, again:

    “Ok, so consider the possibility that capital punishment is counterproductive. How much is your desire to do executionary justice worth in terms of lives?

    Good question. There have been 1,002 executions in the United States since 1976. If I were convinced that 10 of those executed were innocent — I mean factually innocent, as opposed to there being alleged procedural irregularites in their trials — I think that would be too much.

    Certainly there have been far more than 10 accidental deaths caused by the “war on drugs” since 1976, but there’s far less outcry about those deaths — which were arguably caused by an effort far less worthy than that of meting out a proper punishment to murderers — than there is every time a bully like Williams has his number called.

  124. 124
    Tom says:

    Rilke, one more (I can’t resist):

    Do you want to be in a class with the repressive regimes of the world?

    The fact that Cuba has universal health care doesn’t make liberals stop arguing that the United States should have it, too. Even a repressive regime can get some things right. And a democratic country can get some things wrong.

    The European countries that abolished the death penalty generally did so in the face of popular majorities that favored keeping it. (It’s easier in European-style parliamentary democracies for politicians to ignore voters.)

    Capital punishment for anything but premediated murder is uncivilized. (Louisiana, that’s you.) Hanging a girl from a crane, Iran-style, because she slept with a guy is evil. Hanging a guy because he raped and killed a girl is a good thing.

  125. 125
    Perry Como says:

    than there is every time a bully like Williams has his number called

    Who gained his power through an artificially inflated market generated by the War on NounsDrugs.

  126. 126
    Eric says:

    Does anyone see the irony of putting a man to death during the two weeks before Christmas? If you notice the strongest proponents for the death penalty and for his execution claim to be devout christians.

  127. 127
    Joe's Garage says:

    I think George Carlin made the definitive statement on the death penalty, I quote, ” If it’s wrong to kill anyone, it’s wrong to kill anyone.”

  128. 128
    dave. says:

    like many others here, i don’t completely oppose the death penalty. i do think the process of prosecution/conviction/verdict/sentencing/execution needs some major overhaul and, hopefully, wiser folks than i will contribute to that process, when and if it begins.

    i think there are certain acts that, when committed, essentially forfeit the offender’s membership in humanity. we put down a vicious dog — *usually* with very little delay. i have no problem with the concept of regarding certain, obviously guilty offenders in a similar manner.

    i’m a father of a beautiful, young girl and, apparently because i have an insidious and masochistic subconscious desire to harsh my own mellow, i’ve thought about it thusly:

    suppose some bad person wanted to attack my daughter, with the most unspeakable intentions. if i were there, assuming i were capable of thwarting or interrupting the attack, if the bad person died in the process, i’d be relatively innocent of murder because i was defending my daughter.

    if it were me being attacked, i could kill my attacker in self defense and that’d be that. however, if the attacker succeeds — in either case — and leaves the scene of the crime, they essentially win.

    in the example with my daughter, assuming the attack succeeds, if i show up outside the courthouse and blow the attacker away, i’m now a premeditated murderer, even though i would have likely been exonerated if i blew the attacker away at the scene of the crime, because they’re now a protected person. i don’t think such a person should ever be protected.

    i also don’t think the decision to execute a death sentence should be solely the descision of the state. i think someone close to the victim (like parent/child close) should make the choice, on behalf of the victim, between a death or life in prison sentence. if no such person exists, a life sentence is appropriate.

  129. 129

    Damn, you’re on a roll tonight Perry.

    If prohibition didn’t exist, the gangs would lose the incentive to sell drugs altogether. The black market wouldn’t be able to compete with the legal market.

    Hmmm seems like it is all coming together now, heh.

  130. 130
    Serenity Now says:

    John Cole: … the death penalty … does not seem to prevent crime …

    The evidence seems to contradict you. Please see:

    – Murray, Iain “More Executions, Fewer Deaths?”
    http://www.stats.org/record.js.....#038;ID=21

    – Taylor, Stuart, Jr. “Does the Death Penalty Save Innocent Lives?”
    http://www.learnedhand.com/taylor.htm

    – Dezhbakhsh, Hashem, Rubin, Paul H. and Mehlhop Shepherd, Joanna, “Does Capital Punishment Have a Deterrent Effect? New Evidence from Post-moratorium Panel Data”
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/pa....._id=386300

    – Mocan, H. Naci and Gittings, R. Kaj, “Pardons, Executions and Homicide”
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/pa....._id=295576

  131. 131
    Pb says:

    “Plenty”? I’m not aware of a single substantiated case.

    You have got to be kidding me. Have you heard of DNA evidence, and its recent effects on death penalty cases?

  132. 132
    Jay says:

    Killing is wrong? Come on people, if you are residing in the US and faithfuly paying your taxes, you are directly supporting the police, the prisons and the military(for obvious openers), who are basically violent organizations by their nature. They kill people every day, innocent and guilty. Agree or disagree with them in principle all you want, but they’re there, it happens. Is it a conflict to say you’re opposed to state sanctioned death when your tax money contributes to buy the gun, the ammunition and pays the executioner’s salary? There are options, you know, short of overthrowing this monkey house, if one cannot live with the thought of possible innocent blood being spilled. One could relocate to another country or, if that’s too far to go, you can go the Thoreau route, stop paying taxes and live by a pond. All of that would be much too inconvienient for most people. Funny how some principles are decided like that. I’m just saying, hypothetically, that if you disagree with Hitler then don’t be a contrary bastard and give generously to the neo-nazi party, that’s all.

    And what’s wrong with a little blood lust? Is it wrong to get a good feeling when some monster is put to death? I’m tired of feigning an idealistic sense of pc civility to some bastard who showed none to his victim. I’m not concerned with deterence, rehab or what good you think the prisoner can do now that he’s “reformed”. You killed, now you’re going to be killed, end of story. One can argue that there is a chance that someone innocent could be killed in this process. How many people, would you say, are completely innocent and hanging out on death row? Seriously, with the 20+ year long appelate process, evidence, the media, family and friends and groups like the innocence project don’t you think that your innocence has been pretty well scrutinized? I could be way off on that but it’s not like you get whisked off to the gallows from the defendant’s chair. My rant’s done, time too get some more coffee…

  133. 133
    Cyrus says:

    That said, reiterating my previous post, it is uncivilized to allow a monster like Tookie Williams (or Ted Bundy, or John Wayne Gacy, etc.) to breath our air. It is a statement of sincerely civilized society that it deals with such parasitic life forms appropriately.

    I disagree completely. I couldn’t find the exact quote, but someone once said that the measure of a society is not how we treat the best among us, but rather how we treat the least among us. It’s inevitable that the people on “top” will live well and freely and the government will always take their interests under consideration. It’s normal that the people in the middle manage that most of the time. But the people on the “bottom” – the poor, the crippled, the gays and Jews and gypsies and other pariahs throughout history – how they are treated is the most important indicator of how egalitarian, just, and advanced a society is. That is what’s great about America – not that we had robber barons, but that even when we did have them, there was still enough fairness and opportunity here for the poor and downtrodden for them to come in droves. I think that’s still true today by comparison to the rest of the world, though we could always improve.

    Any idiot could design a system where the “normal” people get treated like human beings, and lots of idiots do. This country can and should have a system where even the “parasitic life forms”, as you put it, get treated like people too. Uncivilized? It’s the measure of civilization to do so.

  134. 134

    This is an argument the anti-death penalty folks won’t win. a) he’s not remorseful and b) as a gang leader he prob commited far more many crimes and murders he wasn’t caught for. This guy’s no retard, but a wanton killer hiding behind kid’s books. Let’im burn.

  135. 135
    menemenetekelupharsin says:

    And speaking of Nazis, congrats on being the first past Godwin’s post. I’ll think of you while sacrificing a virgin tonight to sate my mystical blood lust.

    Damn, you people are predictable. Never enough to disagree; the other side has to be Nazis.

    I’m not calling anyone a Nazi, but it is worth noting that Hitler’s personal physician, Karl Brandt, was the first one to propose lethal injection in the modern sense as a means of execution. The Nazis were also the first to use lethal injection, focusing primarily on the disabled and on Jewish children. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lethal_injection

    Incidentally, Brandt was himself executed after the war. Make of that what you will, but in this specific instance Godwin’s law seems somewhat inappropriate. The Nazis (and Stalin, too, and Saddam) are useful examples for death penalty opponents of what happens when you let the government decide who lives and who dies. The distinction between totalitarianism and capital punishment overlooks the contention that capital punishment is what makes totalitarianism possible. Is there a single example of a totalitarian state that didn’t have capital punishment? How else would a totalitarian state maintain control of its populace? Imprisonment and torture might help, but under Stalin’s “no man, no problem” rule of dictatorship, as long as a political opponent lives he is a threat to the regime. Totalitarianism is impossible without capital punishment. I’m not trying to insult or offend anyone when I point that out. If anyone can think of a totalitarian state that didn’t/doesn’t have the death penalty, please let me know. There may be a couple I’m unaware of. (But frankly, I doubt it.)

    Also, I’m a little confused by what you meant by this:

    True, there are plenty of examples throughout history where governments abused their power. But the vast majority of the bodies the great 20th century tyrannies piled up were killed extrajudicially.

    I don’t know what you meant by killing “extrajudicially”; when the system of government is authoritarian, isn’t every killing “judicial” in the barest legal sense? Stalin’s show trials, etc.? Or are you referring to things like the Einsatzgruppen and the concventration camps and whatnot? Please enlighten me, I’m confused by the wording. Also, as I’m sure several people will cheerfully point out, I’m just plain stupid. So bear with me here, please.

  136. 136
    Cyrus says:

    The distinction between totalitarianism and capital punishment overlooks the contention that capital punishment is what makes totalitarianism possible. Is there a single example of a totalitarian state that didn’t have capital punishment? How else would a totalitarian state maintain control of its populace? Imprisonment and torture might help, but under Stalin’s “no man, no problem” rule of dictatorship, as long as a political opponent lives he is a threat to the regime. Totalitarianism is impossible without capital punishment.

    I agree with your general point that capital punishment is wrong, but this is a very bad argument for it. Yeah, every totalitarian state has depended on capital punishment. Of course, every totalitarian state has also depended on a system of weights and measures. (At least in the past 200 years or so.) I don’t see too many arguments for abolishing that just because totalitarian states needed it. And besides, until the past fifty years or so I think every state has had capital punishment, totalitarian or not.

  137. 137
    Pb says:

    Hitler and the Nazis were also way ahead of their time in their usage of coal gassification to meet their power needs. Then again, that didn’t involve state executions.

  138. 138

    Tom loves killing, thinks it’s a solution to problems for the state. He’s wedded to the concept. He may, in fact, have killed in his past, perhaps during military service, and all of this is a way for him to justify to himself what he did. Hey, killing can be okay if you’re on the side of the good guys.

    Tom strikes me as somehow pathological. Other people here who support capital punishment at least seem to be swept up in anger over the crimes Williams was convicted of committing. Tom here slyly, coolly pushes killing as a means to something: justice maybe, less crime perhaps. A moral equation here (death = death), a misstatement of facts or history there.

    A person who calmly endorses killing other people has serious issues which he has successfully submerged from public view.

    My opposition to the death penalty has been based on the corruption of the state and how that corruption adversely affects its citizens. Tom wallows in the corruption that the cult of death brings. My guess is that his philosophy embraces cutting funding for various kinds of aid to the poor. Once you kill and get away with it, the next 100,000 is easy. Tom probably smiled this morning when he read the paper, enjoying another killing.

  139. 139
    ppGaz says:

    Tom strikes me as somehow pathological

    The death penalty is pathological. As I said, it cannot be administered without defects, and since the execution of innocent people is not acceptable, the death penalty cannot be acceptable, since innocents are certain to be executed under any scheme.

    In order to find it acceptable, one has to place one’s desire to have it above the prohibition against executing an innocent person. That is pathological.

  140. 140

    Tom, fuck Godwin’s Post. You said “Nazi.” There are plenty of regimes that killed its citizens. Take your pick. Eventually, the motivation behind state killing involves keeping the bastards in power.

    Schwarzenegger, for example, had to kill Williams in order not to lose the support of the California Republican Party. You know, in an effort not to lose power he had to satisfy the blood lust of his political base.

    Once you start killing, it’s only a matter of degree and appetite. Come on, Tom, even Arnold’s dad knew that.

  141. 141
    rilkefan says:

    Tom, SES = “Socioeconomic status”. It’s a social-science way of taking race out of the conversation for greater likelihood of communication. Basically it’s well understood that being poor and otherwise belonging to a low-status group and killing someone from a high-status group is likely to lead to (or is strongly correlated with) poor lawyering and more death-penalty-prone juries. I think the pro-DP side’s response is, “Fine, we should execute more well-off white folks and more blacks who killed other blacks.”

    Anyway, things are trending the right way for my side, time will take care of this issue.

  142. 142
    Avedon says:

    “All of the witnesses who implicated Williams were criminals who were given significant incentives to testify against him and ongoing benefits for their testimony,” Wefald wrote.

    “This type of testimony is the leading cause of wrongful convictions in murder and capital cases in the United States,” she wrote, citing a study from Northwestern University Law School’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.

    That’s not what I would call an open-and-shut case against Williams. Your mileage may vary.

    I’m baffled by the claim that Williams should have been willing to give “information” on gangs to the authorities. He’s been in jail for 27 years and probably not terribly up-to-date, so that would be worthless. And spilling any old beans would just wreck what credibility he had with the kids he was hoping to help. His last plea to young people to avoid violence carries more weight given that he refused to try to sell someone else out for the vaporous hope of saving his own life.

    His forming a gang no doubt did result in loss of life for some, but Williams’ claim that, while he’d done bad things in his life, he’d never done anything this bad, might just have been true. The fact is, we don’t know. Which is a good reason to wish clemancy had been granted.

    I’m definitely not in favor of executing people on the grounds that we can imagine that he did something wrong that no one knows about. I find such a suggestion disgusting.

  143. 143
    Victoria says:

    ok, let’s just settle this for a moment here…start from the beginning of the study of criminal justice.

    what is the purpose of a criminal justice system? revenge? rehabilitiation? atonement? early theorists (namely becarria) posited that the CJ system exists to deter and prevent crime. therefore, criminals should be rehabilitated, and justice should be exacted in a fashion that sets an example for other would-be criminals. punishment, while tied to this, should not be done purely for the sake of appeasing the public. punishment should be constructive and meaningful.

    leading out of that, research has suggested that the death penalty has no affect on crime rates. zip. if anything, trace evidence suggests that states who frequently utilize the death penalty suffer from a barbarism effect in which violence spikes after an execution. criminologists speculate that this is due the public cheapening of life that an execution demonstrates.

    the CJ system is not accountable to victims of crime, or to their families. yes, it is tragic when somebody is victimized. i have worked with the families of murder victims, and the pain is palpable. but the CJ system is accountable only to the public good. if it is not demonstrated that executing somebody would reduce crime, then it does not serve the public in any meaningful fashion to use the death penalty. period. helping somebody satisfy a revenge fantasy or find closure is not the CJ system’s purpose.

    also, there is evidence to suggest that the death penalty is handed down largely based upon race and location. see paternoster’s study. black men who kill white people in white counties are more likely to not only get the death penalty, but to actually be executed.

    tookie is not the poster case for this movement, i agree. but what is the use for a punishment that is neither fair nor effective, and costs the taxpayers far more than simple life without parole? it has nothing to do with barbarism per se, it pragmatism.

  144. 144
    Brian says:

    Bob,

    I get no pleasure, nor any heavenly benefits out of someone like Williams getting put to death. No one should. I don’t even believe that it can bring closure to the victim’s families. I do believe though, that in the cases of Williams, the white murderers of James Byrd, John Wayne Gacy, Tomothy McVeigh, and others like them, society should have the right to pass legislation through their elected representatives so that such monsters cannot be allowed to live and breath, even if in confinement. There’s nothing all that mysterious about it. It’s a mechanism of bringing society some balance in a very intangible way.

    Comparing Williams’ killing to the war in Iraq (if that’s what you’re doing, and I think you are) is moral relativism that is obscene in its foolishness and careless application.

  145. 145
    Brian says:

    Correction to above:

    Timothy McVeigh
    (obviously)

  146. 146
    Rich McIntosh says:

    I am considered to be a fairly left liberal. That said, I wish to take exception to the above posts. Avedon says we don’t know what Tookie did. Say what? Tookie was convicted by pretty good evidence in the shotgun urder of 4 innocent humans whose path he happened to cross. I too am against the death penalty in almost all cases but there are people who are complete sociopaths and just don’t get it. Killing someone for killing someone just goes against logic for me. However right now there is a death penalty in effect legally in the State of California. Tookie has been convicted of using a shotgun at very close range to kill for people we know of. The death penalty is not something I advocate in the case lightly. I am sure there are innocent people in jail. The system executes poor people of color much more often than white rich people. There are actually more murders taking place in states (mainly the south) with death penalty statues than those without (www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/) so its not a deterrent. All you have to do is read the LA District Attorney’s account of the crime (http://www.lacountyda.org/pdf/swilliams.pdf) and how Tookie behaved in prison. For me the bottom line is that Tookie did it and with the laws in place now, justice was served. A death of another human being is never a good thing. Tookie and his supporters were asking for consideration Tookie himself never gave others.

  147. 147
    ppGaz says:

    society should have the right to pass legislation through their elected representatives

    Society has the legal right because its own laws give it those rights. But that doesn’t make it the right thing to do. Doing something because you can puts you into the Bill Clinton category. Not doing something because it is the right thing not to do is often the correct action.

    As I said above, the death penalty cannot be morally acceptable, unless you are (a) willing to accept the execution of innocents, and are willing to prove it by (b) being one of those innocents.

    Barring that, the DP is immoral.

  148. 148
    Brian says:

    I would also like to encourage anyone interested to read Cass Sunstein’s piece in a recent Atlantic Monthly about how the death penalty actually does prevent further crimes/murders.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/doc.....arysources

    If you’re one of those who thinks that simply giving someone a life sentence is an easy solution, think again. A life sentence can mean more murders at the time of the original crime (“I’ll get a life sentence anyhow, so why not kill off as many witnesses as I can now?”) and while locked up (prison guards, other inmates, directing hits against targets on the outside).

    It’s naive at best to think that capital punishment is somehow not civilized or does not make society safer.

  149. 149
    alppuccino says:

    Take Tookie into the chamber, plug him in and give him an IV of anesthesia.

    He wakes up the next day and tell him that it didn’t work and there’s a do-over tonight. Do it a few times and tell him that it’ll be done properly – eventually.

    Cruel and unusual? Crueler than death? Tookie was “scum incarnate” and listening to people tell how Tookie turned himself around is cruel to those who know better. Who rallies for us? Where’s my clemency from this horseshit?

    When given a chance to make a statement, Tookie declined. BJ Hunnicut thinks Stan’s a world changer, but when it couldn’t save him, Tookie couldn’t be bothered to try and help the kids one more time.

    Reverend Jackson puts Tookie beside Christ when he refers to Arnold as Pilate. Don’t recall Jesus talking about any gurgling sounds in his travels. Must be somewhere in the back of Jackson’s bible.

    Well fed, well-muscled and literate. Young children look at the path to self-betterment: murder.

    If killing is wrong fine. Lock Tookie in a box forever. Give him one meal a day and no other stimuli. No one is laughing at how he gurgled.

    “We are going to prove that Arnold is a cold-blooded murderer.”

    Make sure you ignore the education of your impressionable children while you’re on this quest.

    I believe in predemption. Teach you kids not to kill and leave redemption to the movie stars.

  150. 150
    Brian says:

    How many innocents are killed? C’mon, really?

    I am prepared to accept the killing of an innocent person (Tookie is not one of them) as the trade off for saving the lives of other who might be murdered if the death penalty did not exist. You seem willing to acccept the opposite.

    In our democracy, if the people decide that it’s “not right” to have capital punishment, then that is how it should be. I for one would argue loudly in its favor, and in favor of all law-abiding citizens of this state (CA) who, as a collective, value life and freedom, and do not wish to allow monsters to live amongst them.

    Such a society is not capricious in this action, and does not gleefully kill off its prison population for “kicks” or for “blood lust”. It also has the ability to see true redemption where it exists, and to adjust a sentence acordingly, and not in response to some Hollywood blowhards or Jesse Jackson. Tookie was a fraud in this respect, and the Governor saw right through him.

  151. 151
    alppuccino says:

    Better idea:

    Pacifica Bob thinks all killing is wrong. Much respect.

    Build a cage that cannot be opened around Tookie, and place it at Bob’s house and let him feed Tookie until Tookie dies.

    No weights, no cable, no books. Just food.

    Monthly inspections of the impenetrable murderer-hold at Bob’s house will ensure compliance.

    Problem solved.

  152. 152
    ppGaz says:

    I am prepared to accept the killing of an innocent person (Tookie is not one of them) as the trade off for saving the lives of other who might be murdered if the death penalty did not exist. You seem willing to acccept the opposite.

    Then yours is an immoral, and uncacceptable, position.

    You have decided that your desire for this punishment overrides the moral imperative against wrongly killing another person. If innocents are killed … and it is certain that they will be, and already have been … then those people are simply disposable in your model of how this should work.

    As I said, that is pathological, and it is not a morally tenable position.

    Unless you can devise a perfect scheme for the administration of justice, capital punishment is not morally defensible.

    What’s more, I can’t accept your assertion at face value unless you state that you are willing to be the next victim of wrongly applied capital punishment. That you are willing to volunteer your life in service of this principle you say you hold. Unless you are willing to go the gallows for it, then you are liar and a hypocrite.

  153. 153
    Don Keefhardt says:

    Feet first, into a wood chipper. That’s how Tookie deserved to go.

    What a treacherous, vile $h!tweasel he was.

    Good riddance.

  154. 154
    menemenetekelupharsin says:

    I agree with your general point that capital punishment is wrong, but this is a very bad argument for it. Yeah, every totalitarian state has depended on capital punishment. Of course, every totalitarian state has also depended on a system of weights and measures. (At least in the past 200 years or so.) I don’t see too many arguments for abolishing that just because totalitarian states needed it. And besides, until the past fifty years or so I think every state has had capital punishment, totalitarian or not.

    No, I agree that it’s not a good argument. But it’s not the worst argument one could make, either. There are certainly better arguments one could make against capital punishment- it’s an impractical deterrent, it legitimizes lynch mob mentality, the government hypocrisy, etc. I just didn’t agree with Tom’s characterization of totalitarianism and capital punishment as being wholly separate and distinct, as if totalitarianism could exist without capital punishment. (It can exist without coal and advanced technology, though, as countless oppressive regimes throughout history have proven.) My own objections to the death penalty don’t hinge on this point, either.

    I think a better issue is trying to write a death penalty statute so that it only captures the worst of the worst. I maintain that such efforts are impossible. What do you say? Only multiple murderers get the death penalty? Well, what makes someone who kills two gangsters worse than someone who kills one child? What makes one child-killer worse than one cop-killer? What makes one cop-killer worse than someone who kills a mailman? What about felony murder? How do we write a statute that ensures that only the worst of the worst are death-eligible? Whose standard of awfulness do we apply? The jury’s? The jury can screw up, too- witness the Mississippi case everyone’s discussing.

    I also think a better issues are raised during due process. For example: How do you ensure that the defendant is given adequate resources to defend himself? What if he’s indigent and borderline mentally retarded? Why isn’t he entitled to the same kind of stellar defense that O.J. Simpson received? Will indigent death penalty defendants have access to the same kinds of funds for forensic analysis, psychological analysis, etc. that the prosecution will presumably possess? Will taxpayers be willing to foot the bill in order to make sure that this financial parity occurs? I remember a guest speaker at my law school made what I consider an excellent point about this issue. He said that the states that have a death penalty should enact statutes declaring that if you can afford to spend over $75,000 on your criminal defense in a murder trial, you will not receive the death penalty; in point of fact, that’s nearly always the way it works out. I know of a few wealthy defendants who made it to death row (Scott Peterson, Louis Lepke, Capano), but that basic assertion is still accurate about 99% of the time.

    There are other arguments one could advance, and I’m sure every single point I’ve raised is easily refuted, too; but what’s the point? Everyone’s mind is made up on this issue. It seems pretty pointless discussing it, except that the inevitable shouting at one another makes it all worthwhile.

  155. 155
    Cyrus says:

    Cruel and unusual? Crueler than death? Tookie was “scum incarnate” and listening to people tell how Tookie turned himself around is cruel to those who know better. Who rallies for us? Where’s my clemency from this horseshit?

    It’s okay, I forgive you. Oh wait, I thought that was a typo and you actually meant “clemency for this horseshit” – you didn’t really mean what you wrote, did you? Because it makes no sense – you need clemency for choosing to read something you disagree with? I guess you expect an apology from the writer, right? Poor baby. Look, there’s a little tear in the corner of my eye.

    Well fed, well-muscled and literate. Young children look at the path to self-betterment: murder.

    If you’re one of those who thinks that simply giving someone a life sentence is an easy solution, think again. A life sentence can mean more murders at the time of the original crime (“I’ll get a life sentence anyhow, so why not kill off as many witnesses as I can now?”) and while locked up (prison guards, other inmates, directing hits against targets on the outside).

    I’m always just a bit scared of people who act like the death penalty is the first, last and only deterrent from murder. It sounds like they’d go postal over bad service in a restaurant if not for the fact that it might get them executed. Do their conscience and guilt have nothing to do with it? Even if not that, what about 25 years in prison and being stigmatized for the rest of their life after that – they don’t even care about that stuff unless there’s a chance they’ll get killed? Yes, I know that death penalty supporters don’t really think like that. I’m just saying I don’t buy the idea that the death penalty acts as a deterrent at all. I read the article Brian linked to, and it referred to a study by the American Enterprise Institute (how reliable) that compared the number of murders before and after the reinstatement of the death penalty. Maybe the study made the very complicated effort to control for all the other potential causes of that, but they if so never mention it in Brian’s article or in the abstract. As for Brian’s “massacre to get rid of the witnesses” scenario, I wonder how many times that happens. Does it account for 10% of murder victims? 5%? Less? And in how many of those cases is it motivated by a desire to avoid any punishment at all rather than the death penalty specifically?

    I believe in predemption. Teach you kids not to kill and leave redemption to the movie stars.

    Like Schwarzenegger, for example. We can see how well that works. Well, some of us at least. “Movie stars dumb! Movie stars BAD! Movie stars LIBERAL! Movie stars – denied clemency for convicted killer?” Riiight.

  156. 156
    Zifnab says:

    What’s more, I can’t accept your assertion at face value unless you state that you are willing to be the next victim of wrongly applied capital punishment. That you are willing to volunteer your life in service of this principle you say you hold. Unless you are willing to go the gallows for it, then you are liar and a hypocrite.

    You know what? I honestly don’t care if he is willing to put his head on the chopping block, because the bottom line is that I’m not willing. Honestly, I continue to fail to see the vice in locking someone up for eternity. If a convicted murderer is sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, explain to me how that is somehow more dangerous to society than having him executed. Are you worried about the lives of the people sharing his jail cell? Are you concerned about a risk he possesses to general populations just by continueing to exist – is he bad juju, will he kill vicariously through others, do you fear the prisons just can’t hold a man that dangerous?

    Seriously, what lives do we risk? What dangerous does our society face in the absense of capital punishment? What harm is done?

    Somehow I suspect the danger fails to outway the danger of executing innocent men.

  157. 157
    John S. says:

    If a convicted murderer is sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, explain to me how that is somehow more dangerous to society than having him executed.

    I’d be willing to wager that the objection to life imprisonment is based primarily on financial motivations – that is to say those that ♥ capital punishment do not want their taxpayer dollars going towards paying for a “cushy” jail sentence for someone they don’t give two shits about.

  158. 158
    Brian says:

    Oh please. Let me guess: you’re one of those who feel a person who is pro-war is a chickenhawk, right? If I don’t immediately volunteer for military service and head for Baghdad, I’m a hypocrite, right?

    If you can’t accept my position, fine, but don’t call me names or epithets. It’s the last position of a person having no capacity for reason.

    In society, we make trade-offs all the time, both individually and collectively. I am proposing a trade-off that accepts the death of an innocent person to save the life of another, or perhaps more. The death of the innocent is not known. We do not KNOWINGLY kill innocent prisoners, and with today’s scientific knowledge, it is that much harder to accomplish. Is it somehow better to lock up an innocent person for life, as long as they are not killed via capital punishment? Either way, the person is innocent.

    It is morally wrong to allow a person like Tookie to live, and to potentially allow the murders of more people by keeping him alive, for reasons I have already explained. Explain why it is immoral for me to take this position. If it’s only a concern about “death of innocents”, well, that strikes me as Leftist poppycock that typically does not take into account the real world. Never, ever do adherents to your philosophy take into account the victims of the criminals, the ugly results of the murderers or their indifference to these victims or anyone else. Last night, even Jesse Jackson, while preening for the cameras, had no clue of the names of Tookie’s victims. This from a man who claims to be up-to-date on the case, yet who is so oblivious to the real world results of Tookie Williams.

    You and Jesse are the ones who are morally reprehensible, in my thinking, thanks to your utter obliviousness to what a good society should be, and how it should behave.

  159. 159
    ppGaz says:

    You know what? I honestly don’t care if he is willing to put his head on the chopping block, because the bottom line is that I’m not willing

    Well, of course, noone really is willing.

    Which is exactly why it is not possible to mount a moral defense of capital punishment. It cannot be done unless one excludes oneself from the principle. No rational person is willing to be sacrificed for someone else’s crime and someone else’s justice. It requires a grotesque twist of thought. One has to argue that the capital punishment imperative is more important than life itself. Which makes the whole concept oxymoronic, to say the least. If punishment is more important than life, then what are we defending with the punishment?

  160. 160
    ppGaz says:

    We do not KNOWINGLY kill innocent prisoners

    One would hope. But we kill them by accident, or by overreaching, or any of a hundred failures that government is prone to.

    The point is, we kill them. And the point is, it’s not morally defensible.

  161. 161
    Brian says:

    My objection to life behind bars has nothing to do with tax dollars, although why is that not a valid variable to use?

    Keeping a murderer alive, and unrepentant murderer, sick psychologically and incapable of making moral distinctions, is giving that person license to kill within the prison population or the prison authorities responsible for overseeing him. (Talk about the death of innocents!) They can also be responsible for calling out hits against victims on the outside (Mexican Mafia, for instance). On the front end, at the commission of the crime, if a killer instinctively knows he cannot get anything more than life, why not kill more people who might be witness to the crime, or kill a policeman who happens to drive by and might?, might not?, have seen the crime in progress, or jurors/judges/prosecutors at his trial to prevent him from getting a conviction? What does the criminal have to lose in these situations, since there is no net loss for him if he gets caught in any of them. He can’t get 3 life sentences. He can only, at worse, get a life sentence, whether for killing 1, or killing 10.

    THAT is why a life sentence is impractical and ill-advised.

  162. 162
    ppGaz says:

    THAT is why a life sentence is impractical and ill-advised.

    But that’s just a smokescreen. Capital punishment is not about the practicality, or cost, of alternatives.

    It’s a moral decision. No matter how you slice it and dice it, it will always come back to the basic moral question: Are you willing to sacrifice your life to an imperfect system of justice?

  163. 163
    Brian says:

    Why is capital punishment not morally defensible? Because you say so? You need to do better than that with me.

    The “death of an innocent” position holds no water for me. It can happen, but it is unlikely or impossible in this day and age. Look at the many appeals Tookie got, where God knows how many people looked at this case, and allowed the decision to stand. How does an innocent person get through this process, unless the witnesses and/or evidence are questionable? In Tookie’s case, there was no question. He was guilty as charged, and so his sentence stood. Any serious challenge to the veracity of the evidence leading to a death penalty conviction should allow it to be overturned, but not retried. Another trade-off in this case is that the person is allowed to live behind bars, unless new evidence surfaces pointing to innocence (i.e. DNA).

    It is foolish to expect me, as a death penalty propopnent, to give up my life for the cause. If you’re so pro-criminal, go live in Compton with Tookie’s Crip friends and see how long you last. Ridiculous? Sure, but no more ridiculous than your statement that I should put my head on a chopping block.

  164. 164
    Brian says:

    Life’s not perfect, friend. This points to why the Left is lost, it seeks a perfect world. Perfect peace (but if there’s a war there shall be no deaths), perfect harmony among the races, perfect justice, perfect acquisition for each individual in the outputs of a capilalist society, perfect opportunities, perfect responses to disasters, perfect elections, perfect relations with other countries, perfect economy, and perfect government.

    That world is called a BUBBLE.

  165. 165
    Tom says:

    Ppgaz,

    Which is exactly why it is not possible to mount a moral defense of capital punishment. It cannot be done unless one excludes oneself from the principle. No rational person is willing to be sacrificed for someone else’s crime and someone else’s justice.

    I don’t “exclude myself from the principle.” I’m perfectly willing to take the small chance that I might be wrongly convicted of murder and executed.

    That brings up another point: Generallly speaking, if you live a thug life like Williams did, you increase the odds that you might be wrongly convicted of murder. That’s one of the occupational hazards of being a Crip. Just as I have a little less sympathy for a drunk driver who kills himself wrapping his car around a tree, I’d have less sympathy for a career criminal who took part in a robbery in which three people were killed, but whose conviction for being the actual triggerman was based on a mistake.

    There are innocents and there are innocents. None should be executed (and DNA evidence provides a powerful new tool for confirming or disproving guilt, and has actually prevented a few mistaken executions). But it’s much more tragic if a genuine innocent is put to death, than when someone, by living a thug life, voluntarily assumes the risk of being mistaken for a murderer

  166. 166
    ppGaz says:

    Why is capital punishment not morally defensible? Because you say so?

    Of course not. Because it is not morally defensible.

    How will you defend it? Are you going to declare that you are willing to be its sacrifice? Will you surrender your son, your parent, your spouse to the principle?

    Or will you just shrug it off as “unlikely” and thereby make someone else’s son or spouse disposable?

    Are you going to claim that it is unlikely enough that the occasional wrong execution is just … well, too bad?

    You have no moral ground to stand on. Your credibility in this argument is now gone. Like I said, the position is not morally defensible.

    Go ahead, prove me wrong.

    Life’s not perfect, friend.

    Strawman. What’s imperfect is government, the only instrument you have to implement your capital punishment requirement. What’s imperfect is the judgment of other human beings. What’s certain is that in this imperfection, innocent people will be killed.

    You cannot defend that. Of course, as I said, you are welcome to try.

  167. 167
    ppGaz says:

    I’m perfectly willing to take the small chance that I might be wrongly convicted of murder and executed.

    Well two things. First, I don’t believe you. The fact that you say so here does nothing to convince me. Will you volunteer to be killed in the place of the next wrongly condemned person? I don’t think so.

    But second, and more importantly, even if you are insane enough to mean what you said, and stand behind it, most people will not. Most reasonable people are not going to send their son or parent or wife to the gallows, or themselves to gallows, for something as abstract as capital punishment. And unless you and those people are disposable in your view, then nobody is disposable, and the principle cannot be morally defended.

  168. 168
    Perry Como says:

    Those of us on the Right realize the world is not perfect, therefore we will not strive to move the world towards perfection.

  169. 169
    ppGaz says:

    Yes, DougJPerryComo, spoofer of spoofers that you are. The irony is lost on our friends here, though, I’m afraid.

  170. 170

    I haven’t seen many people coming to his defense. I’m not sure why this story developed the way it did. It started out like some big wedge issue that fissled out when folks realized they mostly agree.

    The Right: Kill the beast!
    The Left: Um…ok.
    The Right: Aren’t you going to protest? Make a TV ad? Sign a petition? Anything you Moonbats usually do?
    The Left: No. We’re good.
    The Right: Well, thats no fun. Wanna fight about the Iraq war and abortion?
    The Left: You bet! Fascist pig…

  171. 171
    Brian says:

    I explained why capital punishment is morally defensible. I won’t explain it for you again.

    Your counter-argument remains: It’s wrong….Just because

    What’s also certain is that innocent people will be killed if the murderer is allowed to live.

  172. 172
    ppGaz says:

    I explained why capital punishment is morally defensible. I won’t explain it for you again.

    Actually, you didn’t. You just asserted it and stamped your feet louder.

    If you want to mount a defense for the position that the life of every citizen belongs to the government, to dispose of if necessary in the service of capital punishment, then proceed.

    Just saying that it’s “okay with you” is not exactly a convincing argument, do you think?

  173. 173
    Tom says:

    Bob,

    Who’s pathological — the person who can articulate a rational argument for a position you happen to disagree with, or the person who gets so frantic over his failure to convince his opponent that he classifies more than half the country as mentally unsound?

    As long as we’re comparing each other to genocidal tyrants, recall that the Soviets made a practice of classifying political disagreement as a mental illness.

    I certainly don’t have to justify myself to you. Your inability to conduct an argument without becoming plainly enraged and insulting indicates a much less peaceful character than mine. As long as we’re speculating about each other’s backgrounds (incidentally, I’ve never killed anything more sentient than a trout), I might wonder whether you are one of those types who acts poorly in his interpersonal relationships, but tells himself this is outweighed by his holding certain supposedly noble political views.

    Again, who’s corrupt here? The person who repeats the lie that the President knowingly lied the country into war with Iraq — a statement for which no persuasive evidence exists — or the person who disagrees with you politically?

    If it were possible to measure, I would be happy to stack my integrity and my peacefulness against yours at the end of our lives. If your theory that supporting the death penalty corrupts and brutalizes is correct, I’ll have lived a life of blood and deceit, while you’ll be a paragon of honesty and peace. But living in LA, I’ve known too many corrupt liberal jerks and too many decent death-penalty supporters (and vice versa) to think there’s any correlation between one’s position on this issue and one’s character.

    I suspect that both sides exaggerate the effect of capital punishment: The supporters overstate the degree to which it deters murder, and the opponents overstate the degree to which it supposedly brutalizes society. And all of us try to make ourselves look good by the easy route of holding the right opinions, as opposed to doing the hard work of being decent individuals.

  174. 174
    Tom says:

    If supporters of the death penalty supposedly love death, then supporters of imprisonment must hate liberty.

    See how easy it is to make stupid arguments?

  175. 175
    Tom says:

    Ppgaz,

    That’s a flawed argument. Of course I won’t volunteer to be killed in the place of a mistakenly-condemned man — because that scenario would never take place. If it were known that a sentence of death was a mistake, the man convicted would be set free.

    What you’re saying is that in order to be consistent in my argument, I should take, not only my estimated .000000001% chance of being wrongly condemned to death, but everyone else’s chance as well. Well, no. If I believed that taking a .000000001% chance of dying as a result of a wrongful capital conviction was not worth what is gained by maintaining the death penalty for murderers, I obviously wouldn’t support capital punishment. The fact that I don’t oppose it demonstrates that I think the risk is worthwhile. It’s certainly a far lesser risk than I take in other aspects of my life (scuba diving, driving too fast, etc.)

    I support laws against, say, rape, notwithstanding the fact that there’s a theoretical possibility I could be convicted for it and thrown in jail. The logic of your argument is that it’s hypocritical of my to support those laws if I’m not willing to take the place of a man wrongfully convicted of rape.

    Of course I wouldn’t voluntarily do that, any more than I’d be willing to take the place of someone being run over by a U.S. Mail truck. Nobody chooses to pay the price of a mistake, any more than a person chooses to lose playing craps. We choose to take our chances.

  176. 176
    TallDave says:

    Besides being irreversible, I think the death penalty is too lenient. Can’t we bring back hard labor?

    Lots of people voluntarily commit suicide. No one voluntarily does hard labor. In fact, some people commit suicide to get out of hard labor.

  177. 177
    Cyrus says:

    Brian Says:

    Life’s not perfect, friend. This points to why the Left is lost, it seeks a perfect world. Perfect peace (but if there’s a war there shall be no deaths), perfect harmony among the races, perfect justice, perfect acquisition for each individual in the outputs of a capilalist society, perfect opportunities, perfect responses to disasters, perfect elections, perfect relations with other countries, perfect economy, and perfect government.

    That world is called a BUBBLE.

    Seeks a perfect world, sure. Lives in and is aware of the real one, however, which as far as I can tell isn’t the case for you. Tell me, how often do you think that “massacre the witnesses” scenario you’ve described twice now happens? And can you point to even one time in human history when it happened to avoid the death penalty specifically rather than punishment in general? If that and a study by AEI showing only correlation as far as I could tell are the best supports you can find for the deterrent power of capital punishment, then I find “death penalty = deterrent” unconvincing.

    It is morally wrong to allow a person like Tookie to live, and to potentially allow the murders of more people by keeping him alive, for reasons I have already explained. Explain why it is immoral for me to take this position.

    There’s a difference between what deserves to happen, and what you or I have the right and ability, let alone the duty, to do. Someone might deserve to win the lottery, given the rules of the game, but that doesn’t mean it’s you. John Doe deserves to die, fine. But just from that fact alone it is not necessarily true that you should kill him.

    What do people deserve, anyway? Doesn’t Mr. Doe’s cute little son deserve to have his father safe at home with him? Isn’t it unfair to Mr. Smith, Mr. Doe’s boss, that he will lose a valued, dependable and irreplacable employee through no fault of his own? Yes, but so what. John Doe Jr. and Mr. Smith really deserve those things, but they matter little or not at all when you’re sentencing a criminal. You can’t get everything you want, and you can’t get everything you deserve either. So if you’re willing to ignore what they deserve, why do you automatically assume that what Mr. Doe deserves must be made reality by any means necessary?

    In fact, hang on a second – why are you saying “life’s not perfect,” and then basing your entire argument on what criminals deserve?

  178. 178
    ppGaz says:

    What you’re saying is that in order to be consistent in my argument

    Actually, no, what I’m saying is … what I’m saying.

    Either the wrongful executions of innocent people are acceptable to you, or they are not. If they are, then I assert that you have no moral basis for your position. You are done.

    If they are not, then capital punishment administered by the government is not acceptable, because it is certain that innocent people are going to die. Whether it’s one every 20 years, or ten, doesn’t matter. It’s either an acceptable proposition, or it isn’t.

    I assert that the acceptance of wrongful execution is not morally defensible. It’s not morally defensible even if you are going to assert that it’s okay if you are the wrongly executed one. And unless you are willing to be that one, then your position is not even arguable. You would then be arguing that wrongful execution is okay, as long as it’s not you.

  179. 179
    ppGaz says:

    We choose to take our chances.

    Perhaps, but you do not choose to take my chances, nor I yours.

    We are not talking about you taking your chances. We are talking about creating a lottery in which every person is liable to wrongful execution on that day when the government makes a mistake and the finger of fate happens to be pointing that way.

    If your capital punishment argument is based on a supposed reverence for life, then you will have to give it up. You can’t assert that life is all important, except for those occasions when the government decides to take it by mistake. That’s not even in the realm of sanity.

    Life is either the thing being honored, or it isn’t. Make up your mind.

  180. 180
    Tom says:

    Notwithstanding the above, if this guy (http://www.theagitator.com/arc.....php#025962) is ultimately executed, I will seriously reconsider my support for the death penalty. At least in Mississippi.

    Hell, if they even get close to executing that man (who shouldn’t even be in jail), I say we dig up General Sherman and have him invade Mississippi again.

  181. 181
    Serenity Now says:

    ppGaz, are you arguing that the state may never do anything that potentially will lead to the death of innocent people?

    It looks like the death penalty has a signifcant deterrent effect on would-be murderers. If that’s true, then the failure to execute murderers increases the number of innocents who will be killed. Will you “volunteer” to be one of those additional victims? If not, by your logic how can it be morally defensible for you to oppose the death penalty?

  182. 182
    Tom says:

    Gaz,

    I suppose we’re at an impasse, possibly because we can’t agere on our terms. What does “unacceptable” mean, for instance?

    It’s unacceptable to me that anyone should be wrongly convicted of ANY crime. Is it acceptable to you that people are wrongly convicted of rape and sentenced to long prison terms, where there’s an excellent chance that they’ll die as a result of being imprisoned?

    It’s not “acceptable” to me, in the sense that I believe we need to do everything within our power to prevent it. Cases of mistaken identity with the death penalty are just as unacceptable.

    And yet we “accept” people being deprived of their liberty (and we “accept” that a certain percentage of them will die as a result of being imprisoned) in the sense that we accept policies that we know will result in those wrongs occurring, notwithstanding our best efforts to prevent them.

    “You can’t assert that life is all important, except for those occasions when the government decides to take it by mistake.”

    Again, here we are at an impasse. I say that every human endeavor involves the risk of a fatal mistake. It is theoretically possible that imprisoning a murder for life, for example, might result in his escaping and murdering again. (In fact, I suspect that there are more demonstrated cases of this occuring than there are demonstrated cases of an innocent being executed — since the latter number is zero.)

    You, on the other hand, take the position that capital punishment is a special case, and fatal societal errors in this area alone are absolutely unacceptable. Fair enough.

    Perhaps, but you do not choose to take my chances

    Again, fair enough. This is a democracy. Convince enough people to agree with you, and you won’t have to take those chances.

  183. 183
    Tom says:

    Gaz, again:

    “It’s not morally defensible even if you are going to assert that it’s okay if you are the wrongly executed one. And unless you are willing to be that one, then your position is not even arguable. You would then be arguing that wrongful execution is okay, as long as it’s not you.”

    A few years ago, my then-girlfriend, now-wife was arrested in a case of mistaken identity. (Some idiot clerical person made a typo in entering the license number of someone wanted on an outstanding warrant.) She had to spend most of the night in jail, which wasn’t a pleasant experience.

    She would not have chosen to be mistakenly arrested. But she did not then conclude that the police should not have the power to arrest people on outstanding warrants. Suffering because of someone else’s mistake stinks.

    Now, if I were unlucky enough to be unjustly sentenced to death, I can’t say how I’d react. It would indeed be hypocritical if I changed my mind about the death penalty if its imperfection affected me. But the underlying rightness or wrongness of capital punishment stands irrespective of whether I, who support it, am a hypocrite. Arguing otherwise is an ad hominem argument.

    Turn your argument around. If the death penalty is morally wrong, then it would remain wrong even if you — after losing a loved one to murder — changed your mind. Arguments stand on their merits, not the character of the people making them.

  184. 184
    VR says:

    Nothing is going to happen here in L.A., because no one outside Tookie’s Hollywood gang of apologists gives a shit about him.

    Or because everyone is in line to get an XBox…

    Life’s not perfect, friend. This points to why the Left is lost, it seeks a perfect world

    Whoa there Tex… The Left is not lost. I am on the Left, yet I support capitol punishment. I don’t need to justify that to anyone. It is my choice. However, I do agree that we need to make 110% effort in making sure that it is only used correctly, and make every effort possible to make sure we convict the right people.But the reality is – the death penalty is simply a tool. It may not always be the best tool for the job – but in some cases it might be. We should not be using the death penalty all the time, but cases can arise where it is appropriate.So my point is that what *I* oppose is any form of manditory death penalty because I believe each person, each case, each set of circumstances, and each place or time – is unique. And when someone’s life is at stake, it should not be determined by a one paragraph law that specifies a manditory punishment. The real problem that we on the Left have is tolerance. We believe that the Right has every right to exist and that we should allow them to have their viewpoints and whatnot. The Right tends to believe that we are all crazy wackos and we do not have a right to exist. So the Right seems to look more united and powerful while the Left looks disjointed and unorganized. By it’s nature, Tolerance is unorganized. We on the Left do not march in lock-step.I oppose the war in Iraq. I am pro-gun. I eat red meat. I am pro socialized health care. I am for some taxes and against others. I am pro gay marraige. I am anti abortion but pro choice. I am pro environment and pro small business.Stop trying to paint this as a Left vs. Right issue. It is not.Capitol punishment *is* morally defensable but is *not* something to be taken lightly. I fully understand the risks that living in a society that has capitol punishment presents, including those risks to me and my family. And I have to say, that there are some people that are only alive because it is illegal to kill them. They usually work in call centers or Best Buy…

  185. 185
    VR says:

    The West Memphis Three were in my honest opinion, wrongfully convicted. Hopefully our legal system will not fail them.That has yet to be seen.Tookie was, in my opinion, rightfully convicted and subsequently put to death.If you are anti-death penalty – you should get behind their case. If you are pro-death penalty, you should be concerned because the WM3 looks to be one of the clearest cases of wrongful conviction there is.Of course this is all my opinion. I am not a lawyer, judge, jury, or all knowing deity.

  186. 186

    I am prepared to accept the killing of an innocent person

    Yea? How much you wanna bet you’d change your fucking tune if that 1 innocent person was you or a family member.

  187. 187

    And Tom stop making stupid, bullshit comparisons. Being wrongfully arrested and detained for one night is not the same as being wrongfully executed.

    Your logic is severely flawed. You keep using false analogies.

  188. 188
    ppGaz says:

    ppGaz, are you arguing that the state may never do anything that potentially will lead to the death of innocent people?

    I’m arguing that if you assert that the state has a right to kill innocent people because you declare that to be acceptable, then your position is not morally defensible.

    How many of its own innocent citizens does a government have a right to kill, just because a majority of citizens approve of the killing? Remember, your answer can’t be heard unless you are willing to be one of the killed, and willing to have your loved ones be among the potentially killed. Unless you think you can create the risk for other citizens, but not for yourself.

    Go ahead, make that case.

  189. 189
    ppGaz says:

    However, I do agree that we need to make 110% effort in making sure that it is only used correctly, and make every effort possible to make sure we convict the right people

    Well then, support of capital punishment in lieu of a guarantee that it will only be used correctly is not morally defensible. Otherwise, you are consigning innocent people to the executioner whenever your imperfect government makes a mistake. Are you not?

  190. 190
    Dailyswim says:

    The White House gives me the Blues

    Let’s see, what shall we talk about today? First topic: The dude that started the Crips gang has been executed, what’s his name, Stanley Williams, and I don’t fucking care. What a horrible human being. I’m a liberal so I…

  191. 191
    Tom says:

    Ppgaz,

    Calm down there, champ. You’ll note that after relating the story of my wife’s false arrest, I went on to acknowledge that a mistaken death sentence is another story — and that I can’t say I know how I’d react if I were unlucky enough to be wrongly sentenced to death.

    But then I pointed out that my reaction at that time would be a reflection on me, not on capital punishment. You were making an ad hominem argument — trying to discredit my argument by impugning my character (here, by suggesting that I’m a hypocrite, in that I’d supposedly abandon my support for the death penalty if it bit my own personal ass).

    And as I said, neither your character nor mine has anything to do with whether capital punishment is right or wrong.

  192. 192
    Tom says:

    Gaz, again:

    Good to see you studying logic. From that link you posted on “false analogies”:

    “Some analogies are not false. Indeed, it could be argued that analogical reasoning is at the very foundation of all formal, rational thought. It is analogy that allows us to generalize from specific instances to general forms or abstract principles.”

    I made my analogy to show that a person does not necessarily withdraw his support for a policy just because its application hurts him on a particular occasion. I never claimed the analogy to capital punishment was exact; on the contrary, I expressly stated that the situations were so different that I couldn’t tell how I would react to a mistaken death sentence.

    If I had claimed, “My wife did not object to the practice of arresting people with outstanding warrants because she was mistakenly arrested because of that practice; therefore, nobody would object to the practice of capital punishment if they were mistakenly sentenced to it”, then that would have been a false analogy.

  193. 193
    Tom says:

    Argh. Re: the 6:20 post, I meant “Disenfranchised Voter.”

  194. 194
    ppGaz says:

    and that I can’t say I know how I’d react if I were unlucky enough to be wrongly sentenced to death.

    How does your reaction bear upon the moral question?

    Is it, or is it not, moral to construct a formal government-operated tableau that has the capacity to kill innocent persons by mistake?

    I assert that it is not morally defensible, and everything else is just blah blah blah. Irrelevant and immaterial.

  195. 195

    I made my analogy to show that a person does not necessarily withdraw his support for a policy just because its application hurts him on a particular occasion.

    Hurts him? Try ends his life unjustly or ends the life of a family member unjustly. How can one change their support for a policy when they are dead?

    Look, you are fine with some innocents dying even though life in prison would basically serve the same purpose and prevent that.

    Therefore, you are fine with an unjust policy when there is a just alternative.

    I am not.

  196. 196
    Tom says:

    “How does your reaction bear upon the moral question?”

    That was my point: It doesn’t. Capital punishment’s rightness or wrongness stands or falls regardless of whether I would stop supporting it if I were wrongly sentenced to death, or if you started supporting it after a loved one was murdered. Our personal reactions are irrelevant and immaterial.

    “Is it, or is it not, moral to construct a formal government-operated tableau that has the capacity to kill innocent persons by mistake?”

    And my answer, yet again, is that capital punishment is not the only such “tableau”, and you haven’t made a persuasive argument why this particular tableau is a special case.

  197. 197
    Tom says:

    Here’s an interesting paper on the effectiveness of the death penalty as a deterrent, co-authored by Cass Sunstein for the Brookings Institution. Note that both the author and the Institution are considered center-left (at least) politically.

    http://www.aei-brookings.org/a.....hp?id=1131

    “Contrary to widely-held beliefs, based on partial information or older studies, a wave of recent evidence suggests the possibility that capital punishment saves lives.”

    The paper references several studies that estimate that each execution deters between 5 to 18 murders.

    If true, would that change anyone’s belief that life imprisonment is a sufficient and effective alternative to capital punishment?

  198. 198
    ppGaz says:

    And my answer, yet again, is that capital punishment is not the only such “tableau”, and you haven’t made a persuasive argument why this particular tableau is a special case.

    I don’t know what you are talking about, and I suspect you don’t either. In any case, it’s not what I’m talking about.

    I’m talking about one, and only one, thing: The morality of the death penalty.

    Not the morality of killing murderers. Not the morality of housing murderers. The morality of handing government an assignment to formally process accused persons and kill the ones deemed to be murderers. That process is flawed, and will certainly kill innocent persons.

    Therefore, it is not morally defensible.

    That’s it. If you want to argue that it is morally defensible, be my guest.

    The thing speaks for itself. The idea that it a government can, through a structured formal process, intentionally kill people that it deems killable, is not morally defensible, in my view.

  199. 199
    ppGaz says:

    “Contrary to widely-held beliefs, based on partial information or older studies, a wave of recent evidence suggests the possibility that capital punishment saves lives.”

    The paper references several studies that estimate that each execution deters between 5 to 18 murders.

    If true, would that change anyone’s belief that life imprisonment is a sufficient and effective alternative to capital punishment?

    It has no bearing on the moral argument I am making.

    The idea that capital punishment might deter a murder, or not, doesn’t bear on the basic question, which is, is it moral for the government to kill innocent people?

    The question is not whether it is moral to do so, as long as it produces some perceived benefit, the desirability of which overrides the morality of the act of killing the innocent persons. That’s not a valid question.

    My life is not yours to deal away based on the strength of your desire to have safety.

  200. 200
    Brian says:

    VR,

    I appreciate your comments, and will try to keep this out of a GOP vs. Dem battle. In earlier comments I posted in this thread, I made clear that this action of the death penalty should never be taken lightly, and should be reversed if evidence pointing to innocense can be discovered after conviction. It should never be final until all avenues can be exhausted.

    However, in the instances where other innocent people can be murdered by not having a death penalty and allowing a murdered like Tookie to live a life sentence, those victims will not have the benefit of the professional and political resources available to the murderer: lawyers, judges, juries, police, activists, politicians. They will receive only the cold blooded indifference of the murderer, which seems to get lost in this debate.

    Society should be able to pass legislation, when it chooses, to take the extraordinary step to eliminate monsters from their population if their crimes fit within very strict rules of definition for determining a sentence of death.

  201. 201
    Serenity Now says:

    Serenity Now: ppGaz, are you arguing that the state may never do anything that potentially will lead to the death of innocent people?

    ppGaz: I’m arguing that if you assert that the state has a right to kill innocent people because you declare that to be acceptable, then your position is not morally defensible.

    No one asserts that the state may intentionally/knowingly kill innocent people. The question is, may the state engage in an activity that will inadverently lead to the deaths of innocent people.

    Remember, your answer can’t be heard unless you are willing to be one of the killed, and willing to have your loved ones be among the potentially killed.

    Death penalty proponents who live in jurisdictions with that punishment are, by definition, “willing to be among the potentially killed.”

    Why did you dodge my reciprocal question? Let’s try again: It looks like the death penalty has a signifcant deterrent effect on would-be murderers. If that’s true, then the failure to execute murderers increases the number of innocents who will be killed. Are you “willing to be” to be one of those additional victims? If not, by your logic how can it be morally defensible for you to oppose the death penalty?

    ppGaz: Is it, or is it not, moral to construct a formal government-operated tableau that has the capacity to kill innocent persons by mistake?

    Doesn’t your answer depend on the good that will be accomplished by the government ‘tableau’ as compared to the number of innocent people who are likely to die? If you say that it’s categorically immoral for the government to act in ways that may cause innocent deaths, then you’re saying that we can’t arm cops, can’t have an army, can’t immunize kids, can’t build roads, etc. etc.

    I imagine (perhaps mistakenly) you’re willing to accept many kinds of government action that involve some risk of innocent death, but just not in the case of the death penalty, regardless of how many potential murder victims it may save. Am I wrong?

  202. 202
    Tom says:

    “My life is not yours to deal away based on the strength of your desire to have safety.

    Nonsense. You place my life at risk when you empower police officers to use deadly force, knowing that they’re capable of mistakenly shooting me to death.

    basic question, which is, is it moral for the government to kill innocent people?

    It is not immoral for the government, or anyone else, to kill an innocent person without the intent to kill an innocent person. You do not commit an immoral act when you run over a child who runs in front of your car.

    You seem to be having a hard time understanding my question: Why is it legitimate for the government to take some actions knowing that innocents will die as a result, but not intending their deaths, but not legitimate for it to take the particular action of sentencing a man convicted of murder to death?

    Why is a police officer or a soldier or a citizen authorized to use deadly force in defense of life, and is exculpated if an innocent person is accidentally killed, but an executioner is not so authorized? (Recall that you’re maintaining your argument regardless if it can be shown, as the Brookings paper argues, that the death penalty saves lives)? In both cases, there is an intentional taking of life by a government agent. The only mistake is as to the identity of the person killed. Why is the one government act moral and the other immoral?

    Unless the government intends to kill an innocent person, there is no immorality. There is no wrong without wrongful intent.

    I know analogies seem to be suspect here, but consider the example of negligence law. The rule used to be that a person was under a duty to guard against the foreseeable consequences of his actions.

    The problem is that, as the saying goes, “on a clear day, you can foresee forever.” It’s theoretically foreseeable (in the sense that I can conceive of it happening) that if I drive home from work today, a child may run out in front of my car and I won’t be able to stop. That doesn’t mean I’m under a duty to refrain from driving.

    Instead, my duty is to exercise reasonable care while driving. If I breach that duty and drive too fast and kill someone, I’ll be held responsible. If I drive so fast on a particular occasion that it’s close to guaranteed I’ll kill an innocent person, I’ll be deemed to be reckless — to disregard others’ safety so completely that I’m considered to intend that they be killed.

    There is no evidence that the government does not take reasonable care to prevent innocents from being killed — much less that it is so reckless in applying the death penalty that it should be deemed to will the deaths of innocents. The proof lies in the fact that out of 1,002 executions since 1977, there has not been a single substantiated case of an innocent man being executed.

    Bottom line: The government does not intend that innocent people be executed, any more than it intends that innocent people be mistakenly shot by police, or die as a result of any number of other government errors. Therefore, there is no immoral aspect to either action.

  203. 203
    Brian says:

    Can I make the suggestion that next time the anti-death penalty crowd makes their case using a death row inmate, that they use a more convincing example as their prop? Using Tookie Williams was a strategic blunder, and possibly set back the cause. He was an unrepentant and unsympathetic figure, which isn’t a good thing when you’re trying to convert a large segment of the population to your position.

  204. 204
    ppGaz says:

    Nonsense. You place my life at risk when you empower police officers to use deadly force, knowing that they’re capable of mistakenly shooting me to death.

    The comparison is inapt, and moot. A shooting is not the equivalent of an orderly, organized, safe process conducted in quiet rooms and orchestrated by professionals.

    Law enforcement officers must be empowered to use deadly force as a device to maintain order. Capital punishment is not essential to order.

    Your argument is absurd.

  205. 205
    ppGaz says:

    There is no evidence that the government does not take reasonable care to prevent innocents from being killed

    Well, that’s wrong on two levels. First, noone is arguing that “reasonable care” obviates the moral imperatives here. It doesn’t matter how much care is exercised, the result can be wrong. It’s the wrongness that counts here, not the care.

    Second, reasonable care is not always taken. Law enforcement officers and prosecutors make foolish, arrogant mistakes and oversights of both ommission and commission, on a regular basis. They are just human, and subject to human shortcomings. Usually they do apply reasonable care, but we are not talking about the usual case. We are talking about the exception. It doesn’t matter whether the exceptions are generally rare, which I assume they are. The crux of the matter is that there are exceptions. That is, failures of the system.

    Those failures can, will, and certainly have already, resulted in the deaths of innocent persons convicted wrongly and executed wrongly.

    The idea that government should be empowered to calmly plan and carry out wrongful executions is not morally defensible.

  206. 206
    ppGaz says:

    “My life is not yours to deal away based on the strength of your desire to have safety.

    Nonsense

    Uh no, that is not nonsense. That is a matter of life and death, and I’ll defend the principle accordingly.

    You will not be allowed to deal away, bargain away, or vote away the lives of other people without a challenge.

  207. 207
    Tom says:

    Law enforcement officers must be empowered to use deadly force as a device to maintain order. Capital punishment is not essential to order.

    The former is debatable. British police officers went unarmed until only a few years ago.

    And the latter is also debatable. If it can be shown that capital punishment saves lives in a way that life imprisonment does not, it follows that capital punishment is more effective at maintaining order than life imprisonment. If you think it’s essential to save those lives, then capital punishment is essential.

    And you keep using that phrase “not morally defensible.” I do not think it means what you think it means. I think I’m giving a pretty darn good moral defense of capital punishment. I’m hardly an unbiased observer, but I’d even be so bold to say that I’m getting the better of this exchange. You are arguing that in the case of capital punishment, the general rule that there is no wrong without wrongful intent must be discarded. That position may in fact be defensible — but you haven’t defended it yet.

    And as to “nonsense” — well, yes, it’s nonsense to say that I can’t place your life at risk to keep myself safe. That statement proves far too much. You acknowledged you have no problem with a policeman being authorized to use deadly force to “maintain order,” the purpose of which order I assume to mean the protection of public safety. (See J.S. Mill and all that.) So you do accept that it is legitimate for government to risk the lives of citizens in some contexts to maintain safety — just not the capital punishment context. Fair enough; democracy is all about drawing lines, and you’ve drawn yours a few yards to the left of mine. Let the best arguments win.

  208. 208
    Sojourner says:

    If you’re one of those who thinks that simply giving someone a life sentence is an easy solution, think again. A life sentence can mean more murders at the time of the original crime (“I’ll get a life sentence anyhow, so why not kill off as many witnesses as I can now?”) and while locked up (prison guards, other inmates, directing hits against targets on the outside).

    The death penalty can mean more murders at the time of the original crime: If you’re afraid of getting caught and fried, you’re going to do a much better job of getting rid of all eye witnesses.

    See, I can play that game too.

  209. 209
    Serenity Now says:

    ppGaz: The comparison is inapt, and moot. A shooting is not the equivalent of an orderly, organized, safe process conducted in quiet rooms and orchestrated by professionals.

    Since those aren’t morally salient details, your distinction collapses.

    A police department has a policy to shoot murder suspects fleeing the crime scene. Inevitably, the police will kill someone innocent. A state has a policy to execute convicted murderers. Inevitably (given enough time/defendants) the state will kill an innocent. What possible moral difference does it make that the latter killings are part of “an orderly, organized, safe process conducted in quiet rooms and orchestrated by professionals”?

    ppGaz: Law enforcement officers must be empowered to use deadly force as a device to maintain order. Capital punishment is not essential to order.

    It’s certainly essential to all the potential murder victims who will die if capital punishment is abandoned. This escapes your moral calculus because … ?

  210. 210
    Sojourner says:

    Here’s a study that looked at white versus black death penalty cases where the severity of the crime was a constant.

    http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.or.....38;did=539

    Their conclusion:

    Whichever measures the researchers employed, the statistics pointed to the same conclusion: black defendants on average face a distinctly higher risk of receiving a death sentence than all other similarly situated defendants. The various independent tests were so thoroughly consistent that they pointed to race discrimination as the underlying cause. The researchers stated: “In the face of these results, we consider it implausible that the estimated disparities are a product of chance or reflect a failure to control for important omitted case characteristics. . . . In short, we believe it would be extremely unlikely to observe disparities of this magnitude and consistency if there were substantial equality in the treatment of defendants in this system.”

    The study was published in the Cornell Law Review.

  211. 211
    ppGaz says:

    A police department has a policy to shoot murder suspects fleeing the crime scene. Inevitably, the police will kill someone innocent. A state has a policy to execute convicted murderers. Inevitably (given enough time/defendants) the state will kill an innocent. What possible moral difference does it make that the latter killings are part of “an orderly, organized, safe process conducted in quiet rooms and orchestrated by professionals”?

    I’ll have to assume that you are being serious, since there is no indication of it in your post.

    A man “fleeing”, who is theoretically capable of immediately causing injury to other persons, is the equivalent of a man sitting in a chair in a courtroom, surrounded by law enforcement and in custody? And you are suggesting that the law should be free to deal with each of them in same fashion?

    Uh, no the proposition is absurd.

  212. 212
    ppGaz says:

    It’s certainly essential to all the potential murder victims who will die if capital punishment is abandoned.

    You are trying to make the “it’s okay if innocent people die, as long as I can claim greater safety” argument.

    Sorry, not acceptable, not morally defensible.

  213. 213
    ppGaz says:

    And you keep using that phrase “not morally defensible.” I do not think it means what you think it means. I think I’m giving a pretty darn good moral defense of capital punishment.

    No, you are just making other arguments. You are arguing that it’s okay as long as you can present some perceived benefit, or convenience.

    It is wrong to kill innocent people.

    Nothing you say is going to sway me to thinking otherwise. If you choose to establish a formal system of killing which cannot be shown to absolutely protect innocent persons, and there is no immediate threat posed by those persons warranting the action, then I assert that the position is not morally defensible.

  214. 214
    Serenity Now says:

    ppGaz: A man “fleeing”, who is theoretically capable of immediately causing injury to other persons, is the equivalent of a man sitting in a chair in a courtroom, surrounded by law enforcement and in custody? And you are suggesting that the law should be free to deal with each of them in same fashion?

    I want the state to act differently insofar as it has the time and means to determine if the defendant really is a murderer. That’s why we have a trial and appeals process. Once the state has determined that the defendant is guilty, then yes (depending on the crime), I support executing the criminal.

    If executing a murderer (as opposed to jailing him for life) saves multiple potential murder victims, then, as a matter of logic, the murderer’s ongoing life is itself a direct and indirect threat to others. I know you don’t want to factor that into your thinking, but you don’t get to choose and ignore facts depending on how convenient they are to your argument.

    ppGaz: Capital punishment is not essential to order.

    Serenity Now: It’s certainly essential to all the potential murder victims who will die if capital punishment is abandoned.

    ppGaz: You are trying to make the “it’s okay if innocent people die, as long as I can claim greater safety” argument.

    You’re trying to make the “it’s okay if innocent people die as long as I can claim the state didn’t directly kill them” argument. You would accept a dozen or so additional murders for each unexecuted murderer as the price of guaranteeing that the state never executes an innocent convict. If that means thousands of additional murders to save one wrongfully convicted man, you’d embrace the tradeoff. Right?

    I’m not saying that makes you wrong. I’d just like for you to explicitly acknowledge what is implicit in your position.

    ppGaz: It is wrong to kill innocent people.

    But not wrong to let innocent people die?

  215. 215
    Duncan says:

    It is truly a great day in America to see this slime ball executed.

  216. 216
    Sojourner says:

    ppgaz: You’re wasting your time. The pro DP types tend to be the same people who support the Iraq war and are delighted to surrender their civil rights for the promise of greater security. Loss of moral bearings is not the only consequence of a lack of guts.

  217. 217
    Sara says:

    Where are everyone’s statistics stating that the death penalty is indeed a deterrant????
    There is actually no proof to support that it is one, except studies that have been proven to be riddled with statistical error. In fact by using the same kind of statistics states use to support their death penalties one could equally say that NOT having the death penalty reduces crime rates – many states/nations that abandon the death penalty actually see crime rates drop significantly…

    I don’t believe that having or not having the death penalty affects crime either way – we should be honest about what the death penalty is really about – the need for revenge and retribution, not about crime rates. And honest about what the prison system is used for (as it stands today) – punishment, not reform (the system only makes it harder on many levels for prisoners to live “normal”/noncriminal lives on the outside, once serving their time). By executing Williams, these two truths are only further underlined

    some links from a source which admittedly has reason to have a bias, – it’s hard to find a website that wouldn’t have a bias either way on this subject – yet the links seem solid enough, especially the ones about the problems with death penalty statistics.
    http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.or.....38;did=167

    as well, as for his guilt, it’s questionable not just because Williams questioned it. You have to read the evidence before making a decision about someone’s guilt, whether or not juries decided he was guilty. Don’t just go by the two or three lines in the press stating that he did it, or the prosecutor’s insistence upon his guilt (look up the palladium murders to see what good a prosecutor’s word can be, especially one with a sketchy track record – in terms of race in the case of William’s prosecutor.)

    full disclosure: I am against the death penalty under any and all circumstances.

  218. 218
    Serenity Now says:

    Sara, thanks for the deathpenaltyinfo link. Some of the articles there address the research I cited, and I’m curious to see what informed critics have to say about it.

  219. 219
    Lynn Hayes says:

    I’m late to the party, but I have to add that no matter how you feel about the death penalty, it seems that it is a tragedy to waste a life of someone who is trying to do a good thing. No one is saying that Tookie should have been freed, but certainly there is some value to society on leaving him in prison to serve as a role model to teach young people about the dangers of gang life so popularized by other cultural heroes. http://astrodynamics.blogspot......ppeal.html.

  220. 220
    Brian says:

    Sojourner says:

    “The death penalty can mean more murders at the time of the original crime: If you’re afraid of getting caught and fried, you’re going to do a much better job of getting rid of all eye witnesses.

    See, I can play that game too”

    Actually you can’t, because you conveniently ignore the latter half of the argument, which are the deaths that can occur from someone locked up yet still with the capacity and the inclination to kill. Tookie was reported to have called out hits against people outside San Quentin, something he can’t do today.

    For the moment, let’s take the focus off Tookie Williams, shall we, and put it on Clarence Ray Allen, the next man to receive California’s death penalty. He was originally put in jail with a life sentence for murder. While in Folsom state prison, he ordered the murders of three witnesses to his original crime. For this, he now is going to receive death, finally. If he had received it initially, those 3 witnesses would have lived. This is a real world example of what I have been arguing this whole thread, and is a powerful argument in favor of capital punishment.

    The evidence is there. Deterrence is a REAL effect, and lives saved is a REAL effect. If you do not valee these lives, lives that do not receive the due diligence that murderers like Tookie Williams and Clarence Allen receive, then I don’t want to live in a society with you, nor do I ever want to give you and those who represent you, any measure of political power.

    Sara,
    The links to deterrence are further up the thread. I posted it, as did another commenter…..Tom, I think.

  221. 221
    ppGaz says:

    ppgaz: You’re wasting your time.

    Well, of course, I’m not really talking to them. I don’t care what they say or think, because it’s neither moral nor ultimately rational.

    I’m just putting a position out there, namely, that asserting the government’s right to kill innocent people ostensibly to protect your safety is not morally defensible, and I don’t think anyone who has thought it through as a moral question would come to a different conclusion.

    The alternative, of course, is disposable citizens …. you know, the think we are supposedly saving Iraq from now that Saddam is gone.

  222. 222
    Brian says:

    Well, if you don’t care what we say or think, then why the hell comment at all? Do you just like the mental masturbation of preaching to yourself, patting yourself on the back for an argument well-made, and coming back to give yourself some more great advice?

    You’re not wasting YOUR time. You’re wasting OUR time. Enjoy playing with yourself though.

  223. 223
    Brian says:

    And Sojourner, it’s unfortunate that your arguments have so fallen apart that you and your trollish friends here have finally resorted to resignations that anyone who doubts your wisdom must be gutless, slavish, sycophants of BushCo.

    When comments come down to such lazy pronouncements, or, as with Gaz, jerking off to the music in his head, I think my argument has not only been made, but won.

    Nice chatting with you folks on this matter.

  224. 224
    Victoria says:

    And some think that only Bible-thumping conservatives reject science…I have noticed that none of the statistics cited and linked by posters stimulate much discussion. This topic has been studied at length, and it’s depressing to see people who may otherwise be well-informed ignoring scientific study in favor of knee-jerk reactionism. Even if you aren’t a whore for Bush, some of you are certainly equal to one in your appreciation for facts.

  225. 225
    Victoria says:

    And for all those who think the death penalty is a deterrent, cite one study published in a peer-reviewed journal supporting your claim. Please provide a link if possible. I await the responses…

  226. 226
    Brian says:

    What have you offered, Victoria? You throw sterotypes into the comments, then move on? That’s as constructive as the intellectual laziness you appear to see here.

    If you read through the thread carefully, you’ll find links to studies and data on captial punishment. However, I carefully step aside sites, both pro and con, that are clearly pushing an agenda and therefore are using suspect data. Maybe you have the time to pore through slanted material, but I don’t.

    That said, if you have so much to contribute, please post it. If you don’t, then wait until you have something more cosntructive to write.

  227. 227
    Sojourner says:

    And Sojourner, it’s unfortunate that your arguments have so fallen apart that you and your trollish friends here have finally resorted to resignations that anyone who doubts your wisdom must be gutless, slavish, sycophants of BushCo.

    Interesting that you failed to comment on the article I cited. It must really suck when the data don’t support your argument.

  228. 228

    Tookie Set to be executed

  229. 229
    Brian says:

    Sojourner, why should I comment on it? My argument had been made, and won. It must suck to be you.

  230. 230
    DAngela says:

    I oppose the death penalty, why? because the government is sending miss messages. “It’s not ok for me to kill, but it’s ok for you to kill me”. I believe people who commit viscious crimes should be locked away. But if you think by killing that person is going to make it better, it’s not. The person they killed are still dead and their not coming back. The person your killing is dead and their not coming back. You have two people dead, because of a system that says its ok to kill. Both parties have committed murder, no matter how you look at it. “Thall shall not kill”

  231. 231

    […] So, no matter who is to be executed, I generally do not support it. In this case, I loathed the convicted, which may be leading to some of the confusion regarding my position. I really don’t care if Saddam ever had another breath, and it is very difficult to oppose the death penalty for someone like him. I am in a hard place at the moment- I would have a difficult time getting worked up if Shia mobs had sprung Saddam out of jail and hanged him themselves, so it is difficult for me to object to Saddam’s execution. Again, with Saddam, I feel much like I did with the execution of Tookie Williams: […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] So, no matter who is to be executed, I generally do not support it. In this case, I loathed the convicted, which may be leading to some of the confusion regarding my position. I really don’t care if Saddam ever had another breath, and it is very difficult to oppose the death penalty for someone like him. I am in a hard place at the moment- I would have a difficult time getting worked up if Shia mobs had sprung Saddam out of jail and hanged him themselves, so it is difficult for me to object to Saddam’s execution. Again, with Saddam, I feel much like I did with the execution of Tookie Williams: […]

  2. Tookie Set to be executed

  3. Dailyswim says:

    The White House gives me the Blues

    Let’s see, what shall we talk about today? First topic: The dude that started the Crips gang has been executed, what’s his name, Stanley Williams, and I don’t fucking care. What a horrible human being. I’m a liberal so I…

  4. Schwarzenegger denies clemency to Tookie Williams

    Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger yesterday denied clemency to Crips street gang founder Stanley Tookie Williams, who is now scheduled to die tonight at the hands of the people …

  5. […] John Cole summarizes nicely: I am glad he ‘reformed’ after a while in jail, and I am glad he managed to do a few good things after being sentenced to death for his unspeakable crimes- maybe his God will take that into account tonight. But personally, I have a really hard time getting worked up over this case, and think there are far better cases to champion for those who dislike the death penalty than a multiple murderer who still refuses to admit his own guilt.  […]

  6. Arnold Schwarzenegger Denies Clemency In Stanley “Tookie” Williams Case

    Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has denied clemency in the case of Crips gang creator Stanley “Tookie” Williams. This man deserves to die. Matter of fact this guy should have died shortly after the 4 people he killed in 1979. The fact…

  7. […] Regarding the denial of clemency by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to condemned killer Tookie Williams, John Cole says, I have a lot of reasons why I dislike and oppose the death penalty, and not one of them has to do with a concern for the fate of guilty men. I dislike the death penalty because it is irreversible, it is arbitrary, it is seemingly enforced in a haphazard manner, it seems to be more about race and class than guilt, it does not seem to prevent crime, and because I see no need to have a system that could kill one innocent man when we could keep them all imprisoned and avoid that risk. […]

  8. […] In all likelihood Tookie Williams will be executed tonight. The thing is, he expressed no remorse – he maintains that he’s innocent – and the jury didn’t say “death penalty unless you reform yourself”. The people he’s convicted of killing remain dead, and a jury of his peers has made their sentence. There’s no exculpatory evidence that even remotely says he didn’t do the crime. […]

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