Monday, December 12, 2005

the politics of capital punishment

In the headlines today is Governor Schwarzenegger's belated decision not to grant clemency to Crips founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams. I'm tempted to say Williams got a raw deal on this one: One must consider his continuing and effective work to end gang violence (people balance that with his unwillingness to admit guilt for his crime, which is construed as "lack of remorse," but this argument is not convincing, especially considering his free admittance of the fact that he did plenty of other awful things as a Crip). I'm not crystal clear on all the details, however, so that's not exactly what this post is about.

I want to point to one snippet from the article to make a point about the death penalty, however:
"Schwarzenegger, weakened by a loss on all his initiatives in a special election he called last month, would have risked alienating his Republican party if he granted clemency."

This is not to say that der Gropenfuhrer definitely made the decision because he caved to his base, but it is possible. And the fact that external politics is a possible factor in decisions to kill someone or not is, in my opinion, a huge argument against the death penalty.

In other words, if the decision whether or not to let you live is being made by someone thinking more about their next election (and it would, in almost any case, be made by such a person), then maybe giving them that decision in the first place was a bad idea.


TioChuy said...

Never vote for incumbemts

Doke said...

Guess you didn’t like the other template eh Derek? I didn’t like it either.

El Ranchero said...

Yeah I'm fooling around with the html. I'll figure all this out with enough tinkering!

jenny said...

actually, the decision to execute tookie was not Arnold's, it was made by a jury (or possibly a judge, i don't know exactly how the california courts work). i don't know what should have been done here, but if Arnold had granted clemency wouldn't that have simply been bowing to the activists' wishes in hopes of increasing his base? i never heard anything on what most californians thought should happen, just what 2 sides screamed at each other.

El Ranchero said...

It's true that "the decision to execute" was made first by a court, but I don't think it's a stretch to equate Arnold's decision not to grant clemency with a decision to execute.
As far as the reason behind Arnie's decision, it's all about intent. Just because he chose to deny clemency doesn't necessarily mean he caved to conservatives, but it makes it a possibility. He could very well have done it for other, nonelectoral, reasons. Similarly with the scenario you point out. Arnold could very well have chosen to grant clemency for any number of reasons, none of which are buying votes or "increasing his base." Besides, what on earth would make Arnold believe he could incorporate the anti-death penalty crowd into his base?

My point is not that these life-or-death decisions are always made for political gain; rather, my point is simply that they can be, and at least sometimes are. And that is enough to make a strong argument against the death penalty.