The most high-profile execution in the last few years took place today at 12:01 AM, Pacific time. It has given me reason to once again strongly consider and internally defend my position on the death penalty. I'd like to share with you my thoughts.

Stanley "Tookie" Williams was a thug. He founded the Crips street gang. I don't question that, at the time of his arrest and conviction, he was a real prick. A bad dude. I don't know enough about his case to say convincingly that he was innocent of the murder charges that killed him today. I do know that there were no witnesses or informants in his case that didn't get some sort of an incentive deal from the prosecution. That makes me question the results.

Whether he killed anyone or not, however, the state has no place killing him. I have reasons for feeling this way that are completely independent of his guilt or innocence.
  1. It's more expensive, from beginning to end, to execute someone instead of imprisoning him for life. Conservatives should respect this, since money is one of the few non-English languages they speak.

  2. It's not a deterrent. States that do not have the death penalty have lower than average murder rates, and states with the death penalty have higher than average murder rates. Again, law-and-order conservatives should respect the efficacy of true "life imprisonment" versus a politically controversial form of punishment that doesn't appear to work outside of snuffing someone out.

  3. For religious folks, there are no major religions that uniformly support the death penalty (the link I've provided says that the Church of Latter-Day Saints supports retention of the death penalty, but their own Standing Council says otherwise). And don't even talk to me about the death penalty if you oppose legalized abortion.

  4. It's a frightening expression of the power and position of the government. If the mother of a murdered child and the person who killed that child are left alone in a room, and the mother kills that person out of rage and a sense of vengeance, I can't fault that. I have no way of understanding the need for balance that is born out of losing a loved one to a capital crime; it's never happened to me. But for the State to say, "don't worry, we'll take care of him for you" is just plain creepy. Hot-blooded vengeance perpretated by a survivor is understandable, if not justifiable. Cold-blooded execution perpetrated by the State on behalf of that survivor is bloodlust, period.

  5. (this could be 4A) It doesn't make sense. Killing someone who killed someone else is about as restorative as giving a recovering alcoholic a shot of whiskey to ease the withdrawal symptoms.

So there you go. Yes, there's a legislative allowance for execution, but there is also an legislative allowance for clemency. A majority of felony convictions do not rely on DNA evidence, and many have no DNA evidence component at all. Clemency as a policy must have respect for reasons other than DNA clarification in determining when it will be applied. That includes personal or spiritual betterment, and whether you think Stanley Williams was sincere in his anti-gang efforts later in life, he was still saying the words. He still wrote books telling kids not to get into gangs, and kids are only going to read the words, not ask their parents if he's trying to manipulate the appeals court in the process.

We, the citizens of the United States, deserve better than to have our government execute convicted men and women on our behalf. We deserve the ability to correct the mistakes of our judicial system when they occur, and once a person is dead, we all have to live with it if we're wrong.