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Opening Arguments

Celebrity killers

I suspect I'm not alone in supporting the death penalty in some cases (the ultimate punishment for the ultimate crimes) but having many doubts about the way it is implemented. My concerns aren't liberal -- questioning the very legitimacy of capital punishment -- but rather libertarian. 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.

But people like me aren't very moved by the plight of someone like Tookie Williams. His supporters argue that he has been "redeemed," while he himself continues to say, despite the evidence, that he didn't do it in the first place. Even if we accept redemption, we don't have the information we really need to put that fact in perspective: what the people might have done with their lives had they not met death at Williams' hand. Any time the "intellectual elite" or the Hollywood crowd get behind something, we ought to be suspicious anyway. Does the name Jack Abbott ring a bell?

Much more compelling as an anti-death penalty teaching moment is the case of Cory Maye. If the facts are as presented (keep scrolling; there are a lot of posts), there's doubt he should even be in prison, let alone on death row. Why don't the prison-chic people ever take up the cause of somebody like him? Live too far away from the coast, maybe?

UPDATE: Masson's Blog has some thoughts on the subject.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Gov. Schwarzenegger denies clemency.


Masson's Blog
Mon, 12/12/2005 - 8:48am

Death Penalty/Tookie Williams

I've heard about the Tookie Williams case in the news from time to time in the past few weeks. Then I saw that Leo Morris has a post over at Opening Arguments. His reservations on the death penalty generally are...

Steve Towsley
Mon, 12/12/2005 - 10:09pm

Jack Abbott came to my mind immediately, and I assume others have had the same thought since this "Tookie" business made the news.

It always seemed to me that Norman Mailer adopted Abbott out of no more elevated a motive than literary jealousy of Truman Capote's connection to the "In Cold Blood" killers. Abbott wrote a book, as I recall, called "Belly of the Beast," about his adventures, Mailer sponsored him into the chic world of popular celebrities until Abbott embarrassed Mailer by continuing to be what he always was.

In the present case, I agree with those who simply say that a few books don't redeem someone from four gruesome murders for which Tookie never even managed to express remorse. Besides, if society were to convert his sentence, you can bet other sociopaths would copy the routine, doing crocodile good works in hopes of attracting their own liberal groupie activists. There's more than one way to break out of prison.