12 December 2005

I haven't been following the Stanley "Tookie" Williams execution timeline, but I want to comment on Governor Schwarzenegger's statement denying clemency.

I've said before that I feel lucky to never have had to help make a decision in a death penalty case. The advocates arguing both sides are irreconcilable, and the emotions are incredibly intense. And the hardest part of all is deciding whether you want to kill someone. Ugh.

Schwarzenegger's statement is polished and well written, replete with footnotes (!) and details from the case. It appears, on its face, to reveal a strong and thorough clemency review. But on a closer look, I am less impressed. Read carefully, Schwarzenegger's argument is that there is no reason to closely review all of the court proceedings in the case, since all the judges have upheld the jury's sentence. But this misses the point. When you are deciding whether a person should die, you should review all of the proceedings closely, whether or not you have a clear reason to do so. This is, as far as I'm concerned, part of the executive's duty in the faithful execution of his clemency powers. I am concerned that the executive did not do so in this case. Does that mean Williams shouldn't be executed? I can't say. But I would feel better if I had better indication that the Governor's staff was making sure the system works properly.

Incidentally, while one might differ with the dismissal of Williams's claim of redemption, at least the Governor claims to have read his writings, which to me is also necessary to make an informed decision.

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