As I wrote several weeks ago regarding the fate of multiple-murderer Stanley “Tookie” Williams, I oppose the death penalty for a number of reasons:
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.
Now, anti-death penalty advocates are latching on to another wholly unsympathetic character as the new poster-child in the fight against the death penalty:
Clarence Ray Allen will spend his 76th birthday preparing to die by lethal injection while his attorneys made a last-ditch appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to block his execution.
California’s oldest condemned convict was scheduled to be injected at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday at San Quentin State Prison.
Allen exhausted another of his legal options to stop his execution late Sunday when the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed his appeal.
Attorneys for Allen, who’s on death row for ordering the hits of three people at a Fresno market in 1980, claimed executing him would be unconstitutionally cruel and unusual because of his age and health problems.***
Allen is legally blind, nearly deaf, suffered a heart attack in September and uses a wheelchair.
And what did this cuddly old man do?
While already serving time for murder at Folsom State Prison, Allen was sentenced to death in 1982 for hiring a hit man who killed Bryon Schletewitz, Douglas Scott White and Josephine Rocha at Fran’s Market. Allen had the trio killed because he feared their testimony would hurt his chances of success at overturning his murder conviction on appeal, prosecutors said.
This is the worst possible case anti-death penalty advocates could possibly latch on to, and as someone who does not like the death penalty, that kinda angers me. Not only is the man guilty, but he is an ARGUMENT FOR THE DEATH PENALTY, as he managed to murder people while incarcerated. That doesn’t help the cause when you are trying to claim that we don’t need to execute peopole, we should just put them away for life.
So sure, he is deaf, and blind, and in a wheelchair. But he is also guilty and should not be propped up by those of you who are concerned about hopefully one day ending capital punishment in the United States.
Sigh. He’s guilty and deserving as you say, but there are reasons for opposing the DP that go beyond that technical summary. There are reasons that are about us, the people who execute the condemned.
This story is about us, who are about to execute a deaf, blind old cripple because we can. Not about him. Not about justice. There’s nothing required by justice which justifies this execution.
Do anti-death penalty activists every execution or are they selective about which cases they go after?
As far as this being a perfect example of why we should have the death penlaty, there is an argument that can be made that the death penalty is pretty useless since this guy is already halfway in the grave and hasn’t been executed over two decades after being sentenced to death.
You’re right. You have to pick the right battles. This ain’t one of them. This will just be used by the conservatives as evidence that libs can’t be trusted with our safety. Sure thats ridiculous but so is most things after they spin them. Still gets believed unfortunately.
If the anti-death penalty people wait for a sympathetic death row inmate to serve as poster boy (or girl) for the cause, they will have to wait a very long time.
In my opinion opposing the death penalty is not justified through sympathy for the condemned, but because you oppose murdering people, no matter how evil they might be.
Speculation such as this only helps gives strength to something you claiom to oppose, John.
You know, the “deaf, and blind, and in a wheelchair” argument does hold some water with me. It makes me think that if they were going to execute him, they probably should have done it 24 years ago. If you do it now, what does that accomplish? I guess it’s just more proof that the death penalty is only about bloody institutionalized vengeance, as opposed to, say, “turning the other cheek”. On the other hand, in his condition, maybe death would be preferable for this guy, I don’t know.
Anyhow, John, if you want a more sympathetic character, read up on Ruben Cantu. You can’t go out there and protest his execution, however, because it already happened. :(
That’s right, it’s a vital safety issue. We’ve had to contest with increased violence from marauding bands of deaf, blind, old, wheelchair-bound felons here–they’re out of control, take away their viagra!
The reasons for oppostion are many and varied. My own have changed over the years. I am now pretty much opposed mainly because the system that condemns them is too imperfect. The chances for wrongful execution are too high.
However, there are cases on the fringes of the issue, like this one. Young offenders who committed their crimes when juveniles. Mentally ill or retarded offenders. And cases like this, sick old cripples who may not even realize what is happening to them. I can’t hold that executing people in these categories is necessary in order to uphold any support for the DP. These executions are about us, not about them and their crimes.
John is technically correct here, but wrong because he is missing a larger point.
This case also lends support to those who want to limit death penalty appeals, another cause liberals probably don’t want to get caught up in.
The Other Steve
You wouldn’t be making a very good argument. So I think it’s interesting that your lambasting the anti-death penalty idiots for making a bad argument, and then go off and make one yourself. I’m not opposed to the death penalty entirely. I just think we ought to be damned sure the guy is guilty. But I don’t much care for people making sporious arguments in favor of it.
The last time this came up, I looked. And he didn’t hire a hitman. His son and a buddy committed the murders. There’s some claim that he promised to pay the buddy $25,000 to do the deed… But this Allen guy isn’t some wealthy cocaine dealer from Columbia. He’s a loser. The probability that he had $25,000 is just about nil.
Hamilton(the supposed hitman) clearly didn’t get the money, as he was caught five days after the murders trying to hold up a liquor store. (Clearly not the work of the Jackal)
Allen supposedly asked for these guys to be killed, because they were witnesses against his last crime. He thought he’d get a new trial and without witnesses they’d let him loose. (Not terribly creative or thoughtful, is he?)
But let’s say there was a death penalty. Given Allen is clearly stupid and crazy, and this was only a year or two after being convicted the first time, I see no reason to conclude he wouldn’t follow through on the same plan.
Or are you claiming that Allen would go “Oh well. I guess since I’m getting the death penalty anyway, there’s no point in me concocting a stupid plan to try to win my appeal.” That does seem to be your argument, which is why I note it is stupid.
Anyway, I don’t think much of an argument that he’s already half way dead, therefore we shouldn’t execute him. Seems to me we ought to put him out of his misery. But to try to make this into some pro-death penalty argument is clearly stupid.
Are we (yet again) being asked to believe that we are somehow inherently wiser than our allies and peers on matters related to humane behavior?
It is too easy to drum up certain individuals the world could well do without. It is less easy to explain why the US ends up in such bad company in the matter of the death penalty.
To argue we always know best is to pursue the kind of thinking that made the Coalition of the Willing such a lonely enterprise.
It is really pretty simple, John. If everyone in the neighborhood thinks you’re acting like a jackass, then you probably are.
To express sympathy for the condemned is to risk falling into the kind of trap that the always cunning Mr. Cole is exploiting here. And honestly, to express sympathy for the condemned at the expense of the murdered innocents that caused the stupid idiot to be sent to death row in the first place doesn’t exactly warm my heart.
The only justifiable opposition to the death penalty has to come from opposing murder. And outside of the fear of executing innocent prisoners, there really is no other course.
The problem, of course, is that this is an abstract concept most citizens just can’t quite get their wee noggins about.
Which is why death penalty opponents have to rely upon sob sister defenses, and supposed death penalty skeptics get to tut-tut about the suitability of the condemned for mercy.
it’s hard for anti-DP activists to find someone on death row to stand behind. partly because it’s a hard process proving someone’s innocence when the state doesn’t want to reopen a case, and the state almost never wants to reopen a case.
so they get behind someone who they can still point to even if the dude is a murderer. a blind, deaf disabled dude fits the bill pretty well.
i dunno. i hate the death penalty, like john for a number of reasons. the first of which is, i don’t like the idea of giving the state the power to kill its own citizens. that isn’t what government is for.
Although, I will admit that when it comes to Karla Holmolka, I had to think long and hard about my anti-death-penalty stance.
Let me get this straight, ok, John. An attorney arguing on behalf of his client somehow speaks for “death penalty opponents”. Hmm…what’s the attorney’s job here? Is it not to defend his client as agressively as possible?
We have courts so that such arguments can be reasonably considered. It should be — and I expect it to be thrown out. But it hardly reflects badly on anyone that an attorney is doing his job representing such a loser, particularly since the pay for such defenses is wretched.
You should be cheering that guy, fighting to the end in a losing cause, because he believes in doing his job.
For clarity: “that guy” == the attorney. Not (the sngularly unsympathic) Mr. Allen.
yep. that’s why it’s so important for anti-DP activists to put a face on the situation.
yeah, you can argue law and how historically the DP has been misapplied, and people’s eyes will glaze over. you show them a picture and a story of some dude who was put to death by a racist jury, or by mistake, and people listen.
it works in all aspects of politics. hell, the whole NSA wiretapping dealie would have really blown up in bush’s face if there was some story of a cute little 13 year old blond white girl whose phone conversations were recorded because she ordered a pizza from the same domino’s that mohammed atta did back in june of 2001.
unfortunately people tend not to pay attention to a story without a face on it.
While pro-death penalty, I sympathize with John’s arguments. It would definitely help anti-death penalty advocates if they had some better cases out there to put forward to the public. Still, for me, the bottom line is is that as long as there is a vigorous appeals process, as there seems to be here in California, I can’t say I’m against the DP.
Bob In Pacifica
Just finished reading BASE INSTINCTS by Jonathan Pincus (related to WaPo writer?), wherein the neurologist author interviews death row killers. Bottom line: these guys have all been severely abused throughout their formative years, they all seem to have diminished frontal lobe functions and show signs of various psychiatric disorders. I’m also reading a book about Hitler’s psychiatric difficulties (he was beaten by his alcoholic father and was most probably gay, too, like our current President). Both point to a problem with the executioner class (that is, us). No one wants to admit that in order to create a monster you’ve got to treat him monstrously from birth.
It’s because, I believe, no one wants to understand the monster because understanding is one step towards forgiving, and no one wants to forgive.
Further, I think that people are afraid that the pyschological profile of a killer is just an extreme example of the typical human programming, that is, what Mommy and Daddy dished out in my home. Is spanking a child to dissuade her from running into the street just a milder form of discipline on the same order as, say, Richard Allen Davis’s mom, who used to rub out burning cigarettes on the back of his hand (Davis is on Cali’s death row for kidnaping and killing Polly Klaas)? Well, I don’t think so, but I think that there is a fear among the population that there is. A lot of these kids had frontal lobe damage (some from beatings, prenatal alchohol syndrome, or just unlucky) which would have caused problems that would have created opportunity for more physical abuse from parents already beating children.
The death penalty is a society’s denial of how we mistreat our children.
KC: Sympathetic death row inmates are about as difficult to come by as well thought-out posts from conservative (so-called) Republicans.
Bush is gay?
Bob In Pacifica
Probably Dubya is gay, and I wouldn’t doubt that Forty-One abused him physically and sexually. That would explain him sticking firecrackers up frogs’ butts and blowing them up, eh? For more information, Google “lips” “Bush” and “Yale”.
Reactionary forces are always suppressing sexuality. Being anti-abortion is ultimately about denying the non-procreation purpose of sex. Being anti-gay is the same. Being anti-sex education is the same. Remain stupid, unsatisfied and afraid and you’re ready to go to war. The desire for a strong patriarchal figure derives from infantile sexual repression, eh? Ann Coulter isn’t there for pleasure, she’s there for discipline. Once you break the code the symbols are easy to understand.
Personally, I don’t care if you fry this one. But, those who are morally opposed to the death penalty are opposed to it because they believe it is wrong.
Why ask them to ..er flip flop on the issue just to please the right wing asshats?
We are conflating, because John has conflated, support/opposition to the Death Penalty, with support/opposition to a paticular execution.
This is not a zero-sum game. There’s room for people to think outside the boxes that the blog world and the politicans want us to operate in.
Bob In Pacifica: A friend of mine at work who is quite active in gay rights causes is terrified of the “Bush is gay” talk you hear so much of. While he believes that a good portion of the upper echelon Bush people probably are gay (possibly including the Crawford Marlboro Man himself), he doesn’t see this as being a particularly positive thing for gays in general.
And perhaps he is right. Should this administration collapse under the weight of the various scandals and gross incompetencies besetting it, and with that loss of respect and power should verifiable tales of their homosexuality finally get leaked to the MSM, couldn’t it be interpreted as just another instance of what happens when evil gay people are given positions of power?
The death penalty would be a far greater deterrent if it was actually imposed swiftly. The way it is now, it’s very easy to say that “it won’t happen to me” for criminals committing capital offenses, even if they get caught.
You know I seem to remember a movie that came every year at Easter. It starred Anthony Quinn and it was called Barabas.
Not a nice guy this Barabas, but this other fellow named Jesus took a shine to him even as he was being crucified.
What a chump he’d be called today, boy.
It certainly would have deterred the 75 or so people laterexonerated and relesed from death row in the last few years. Can’t have anything stand in the way of our vengence can we?
All the more reason to put him out of his misery. If my state of CA had given this chap the punishment he deserved in a timely manner, as I argued back during the Tookie theatrics in December, he would not have been able to carry out his subsequent murders. This guy’s toast.
“Get rid of the death penalty, and put these criminals away for life”, or so the saying goes within the anti-DP crowd.
Bullshit. Feel-good bullshit.
Clearly, Brian is a DougJ character. Nobody could really be that much of an asshole, could he?
I’m just asking.
A mental midget speaks as though he were an intellectual giant.
It is not your right or responsibility to forgive a crime to another person. Society’s responsibility is to mete out punishment for crimes done in its midst, to protect against further crimes and to balance the scales of justice.
Victimspeak is inordinately anti-society, because it prioritizes the individual over the community. And when this happens, no one is ever truly responsible and can wriggle out of any consequence with some malady or disease they can lay claim to, no matter how manufactured it may be. “He may be a monster, but he was abused as a child” is one such example of victimspeak, and the community will have no part of it.
As the old schoolyard saying goes: take one to know one. You are the most consistently loud and profane asshole on this site, barely deserving of my contempt.
If I want any more shit from you, I’ll come over and squeeze your head….asshole.
Bob In Pacifica
Paddy, I agree. Was at a going-away party for a gay fellow moving from San Francisco to NYC and you could see the fear in his eyes when someone mentioned that Bush is gay. You know, bad enough if you’re Methodist and someone points out that Bush is Methodist.
A lot of the viciousness of the current White House crowd comes from their dissociation with their sexual desires. Getting back to my post on Hitler, his father was abusive to him. Turns out Alois Hitler was a bastard in many ways, and the suspected father was a young man in the Jewish family where Hitler’s grandma worked. So Hitler wanted to dissociate himself from the parts of himself that he feared and hated. His father, the cruel, alcoholic “Jew” who beat him and his mother. And his gayness, hints of which probably drove Alois to more vicious beatings of young Adolf. In the Victor book on Hitler he even goes into why Hitler wanted to off all the Slavs too. And remember, he was born in Austria-Hungary, not Germany.
The same fear that some gays feel are shared with Jews, since there is a strong reactionary Jewish/Likkud presence in the Bush Administration. If this whole house of cards collapses as it appears it will, it will be those damned Jews who were really controlling things. You see, the damned Jews and the homosexuals. It’s 1935 all over again.
Getting back to the death penalty, it’s the kind of thinking that you can overpower what you fear without having to understand it. People who want Allen dead are the same people who wanted to invade Iraq. Daddy says so. The same knuckleheads are gathering around the fires and calling to invade Iran immediately. Once you give Big Daddy the power to kill his bad children, he’ll start killing other children. Big Daddy wants you.
Hmm. And DP advocacy isn’t often based on rank victimspeak?
Let’s all be like Brian:
If we don’t execute even the lame, sick, blind and deaf, we don’t have a HAIR ON OUR ASS because we’d be giving into FEELGOOD BULLSHIT.
You can’t invent that kind of stuff, people. That’s why I am sure it’s DougJ or a spoofer.
Har. Loud and profane, sure, that’s my schtick.
But I’m right, so it all evens out.
But you … you’re just a cartoon character of a rightwing jerk.
Probably not. Its rather brutally applied in coutries like Saudi Arabia and yet people continue to commit the offenses that get your head lopped off in the public square.
And it’s great entertainment.
Now THAT’S what I call FEELGOOD BULLSHIT. Some popcorn, some gossip, and a good beheading. No wonder our capital-punishment-lovin president holds hands with the Saudi prince when he comes to the ranch for barbeque!
I like how Chopper phrased it:
How many people have been on death row who have been later exonerated? How many minorities or poor people have been placed on death row for crimes for which a wealthy white person received 10 years? If the answer is even “one” to either of those questions, than I cannot stand behind the death penalty. I won’t deny that there are certain people who have committed horrendous crimes, who I feel do not deserve to live. But, am I willing to risk having more innocent people die for the sake of removing one evil person from the earth? One evil person who is already locked up and is highly unlikely to pose any more danger to society? No…I’m not willing to take that risk.
I was hoping John might see this. It is off topic sort of–it does have to do with the “system’s” problems–because it’s mostly about the illegal wiretap/executive power thing; however, it is really worth reading. The guy who writes it is a former attorney general and knows something first hand about government overstepping its bounds. Just a heads up.
In Illinois we had 11 men on Death Row exonerated – if one innocent man dies because of the Death Penalty then that is one too many.
We had 11 men falsely convicted here in Illinois, in a “blue” state.
Ask a statistician how many innocent men were probaby put to death down in Texas while George W. Bush was governor.
Other Steve, I think the argument would be that if there were a death penalty for murders committed while you were in prison, it could serve as a deterrent, whereas further imprisonment isn’t much of a deterrent if you’re already facing life without parole.
The Disenfranchised Voter
If this man came before me and I was a judge, I would tell him that I agree it is wrong to execute an extremely old person…
And since I feel this way, I would let him know that I moved his execution to tomorrow…
The Disenfranchised Voter
Shit I thought he was going to be executed in a few weeks.
The point of my joke was that I would move his execution to be sooner.
Oh! NOW we’re all laughing our asses off.
Myself, I always love a good execution joke.
The Disenfranchised Voter
Heh. Well I’m sorry but his argument that him being old is a valid reason for clemency is pretty laughable.
I’m anti-DP as a policy. Granting this man clemency won’t end the DP as a policy so it doesn’t concern me. Now if he actually had a valid reason why he shouldn’t be executed I would probably support his clemency.
“I’m old” doesn’t cut it for me.
Even there, life in prison would have sufficed.
Of course, in Canada, you only get 12 years in prison as an accomplice to a serial killer.
I guess long as she doesn’t date or marry any more serial killers, she’s not a danger to society (sarcasm).
I think the issue centered around being deaf, blind, and crippled, as well as old.
But hey, why quibble when we’re making hilarious execution jokes!
Hoo-eee! Who’s got the next one?
I have no problem with the death penalty in and of itself. Yes, the application of it is at fault but why throw out the baby with the bathwater? I suggest that any case based on circumstantial evidence is immediately off limits. If someone is caught in the act or confesses to the act without force of duress, I have no problem with it as long as we can eliminate so many appeals and enforce it faster. I know it is not a deterrent but I don’t think it needs to be. It’s enough to know that my tax dollars are not being used to keep these people alive when they have proven unfit to live among others. Mentally incompetent? Okay, no death penalty although one could argue that anyone willing to kill another is not competent at least at the time of the crime. Self defense? Okay, here it can get complicated. But, cold-blooded murder by a fully-competent adult is something that I think deserves it.
The original post was the usual diatribe against liberals who have the temerity to stand for something even if it costs them money (tax dollars) or pisses off Republicans (see, that’s why we can’t for you liberulls).
These are people against the death penalty. Be it Tookie Williams, Adolph Hitler, or Saddam Hussein.
Personally I wish the government would stop wastingmy tax dollars trying to put people to death. One, because it costs so much and two because sometimes the state is wrong.
Now since I am not against the death penalty per se — that is I belive no death sentence in cases of circumstantial evidence, no retarded — but for Jeffrey Dahmer I’d pull the switch.
I’m for life without parole for murder, the death penalty for killing guards or other murders do while in prison. Saves millions, even with what it costs us for incarceration and gives the state a chance to correct an error.
And God knows we’ve plenty of those in the last few years.
You’re right, why should we have to see our tax dollars squandered for little more than offing a bunch of murderers?
Much more economical to just put them on the Bush Prescription Benefit Plan.
The Other Steve
Reasonable point, although deterrents only seem to work if people think they are going to get caught. He obviously didn’t leave the prison and commit the murders himself, and if he had had smart friends they never would have tied the murder to him.
However, it seems to me this whole case is more of an argument for NSA wiretapping of prisoner conversations.
The Other Steve
Hanging at dawn? 2 years? 5 years? 15 years?
If we were to execute people at dawn, chances are we’d be executing some innocent people. Not a problem as long as it’s not yourself, eh Brain?
I’ll grant that ppGaz might rely on ad hominem attacks more than most people here, but when your response to a relatively tame insult is a threat – an idle, juvenile, and unoriginal threat at that – it doesn’t exactly help your case, bucko.
“The punishment he deserved in a timely manner”? Maybe the article John linked to was missing some important details, but it looked to me like only two years passed before this guy’s original murder conviction (for which he wasn’t sentenced to death in the first place, again unless I missed something) and the hits he ordered. Do you seriously want to give less than two years for appeals – to everyone convicted of murder, not just some – before you impose the death penalty?
If so, I think the Saudi Arabia comparison is apt. Anyone who places even the slightest value on human life would say that death penalty cases should have a higher burden of proof than other criminal cases. In our system, we meet that just by giving them so much time for appeals. If you get rid of that appeal time, what would you replace it with… or are you going to come right out and say that a much higher chance of killing innocent people is worth getting revenge a bit sooner?
You said it John. The anti-death penalty movement is its own worst enemy.
Though this is true of most of the hard left…
Being anti-DP is supposed to be something Catholics stand for.
Will the Pope command the American Cardinals to deny eucharist to all politicians who support the death penalty? I wonder…
They bloody well should, seeing how they already opened that door when it came to pro-choice politicians in 2004.
Andrew J. Lazarus
I’m opposed to DP as an absolutist. It bothers the heck out of me not that some people tried to save this animal who wasn’t fit to shine fellow killer Tookie Williams’ prison shoes, but that instead of just conceding he was awful and attacking the DP in general, they cobbled up lame-o arguments about age and wheelchair. People don’t respect your cause when you don’t respect their intelligence, and those were stupid reasons for clemency (much less some sort of Eighth Amendment claim).
I completely agree with your reasons for opposing the death penalty, but I still support it for particularly heinous crimes for the sole purpose of revenge and piece of mind for the survivors of the victims. Yes, I can and will admit that revenge is the prime motivation of my position and do NOT apologize for it at all. I believe that revenge is a completely rational human emotion and we should stop denying it. I would certainly support a higher standard of evidence for these executions (i.e. DNA, video evidence, etc…), but I really don’t have a problem with revenge being the motive for it.
All I have to do is think about the that guy who killed those parents, kidnapped the kids, killed the boy after repeated sexual assaults, buried him in Montana somewhere, and was caught on the lam with the little girl (repeatedly sexually assaulted her multiple times) when he got caught and know that seeing him dead is the best thing for our planet. There is simply no other fitting punishment for what he did. Letting him ever feel enjoyment in his life if even just a brief laugh while sitting on his cellblock commode reading the Sunday comics is slap in the face to his victims, the surviving family members, and the whole of society.
Bob In Pacifica
Mr. Lazarus, I agree: the death penalty is wrong because we are bad to do it, not because we do it to bad people.
However, the reason why people kill is important. The same mechanisms that cause the “cold-blooded murderer” who executes four employees of a donut shop after he pockets the thirty-five dollars in the cash register operate in the minds of politicians and the public (that is, we) who kill someone locked away in prison. We just are better at explaining our motives and distancing ourselves from the action.
As with torture, you can find a reason for the death penalty but is the cost worth the benefit?
The US tortures and executes people. Doesn’t that just roll off the tongue? Now THERE is a job for Karen Hughes.
The guy’s dead, finally.
Bob In Pacifica
Well, Brian, if you’re in the wrong liquor store during a holdup, NEXT may be you.
People talk about capital punishment not solving the problem of murder. Hell, it doesn’t even address it.