The empty cell
The sideshow around the main event, the execution of Tookie Williams, was endlessly fascinating. Probably the best place to start is at Michelle Malkin's. Then Captain Ed. Baldilocks says a lot that's worthwhile and Cobb, too. The most interesting debate, if you exclude the Jesse Jackson freakshow, where he couldn't remember the name of a single one of Tookie's victims, was at Captain Ed's. Captain Ed was disgusted by the histrionics over Tookie, but for religious and moral reasons preferred Life Without Parole. Fair enough. But his commenters ran with the argument and pointed out that it was precisely because Life Without Parole couldn't be guaranteed -- that it was more than likely some future political campaign would let stone killers free on a fraction of their sentences -- that the Death Penalty made sense. Commenter Abdul Abulbul Amir (do you know the song?) said: "folks are murdered by criminals serving life sentences with unfortunate regularity. The fact remains we simply cannot ensure that that a lifer can kill no more. However, we can be certain that after tonight, 'Tookie' will never kill again." It would be ironic if the single most compelling argument for the Death Penalty turns out to be the anti-Death Penalty lobby itself.
But when you think about it, every alternative to the Death Penalty is premised on the assumption that jail provides an better way of removing dangerous persons from society. Once the impermeability of jail can no longer be guaranteed -- because holes in the cell walls are being poked by 'activists' -- then it makes sense to execute perps while you can. Of course, there's something nigglingly wrong with this. After some thought I realized what I thought it was. Issues of guilt and innocence; crime and punishment have been distorted by the political process. How else do you have Ramsey Clark defending Saddam and European investigators refusing to provide cooperation because it might lead to the Death Penalty? Crime stops being about criminals and their deeds and becomes yet another battleground in the culture wars. It becomes less about human beings and more about political agendas. Baldilocks said:
True but irrelevant; not logically, but politically. Nor does this factoid figure in the picture.
That's ancient history. What's current is this:
It's about the politics. Not about the crime, nor the victims, nor even Tookie himself. How we have betrayed.
posted by wretchard at 3:44 AM | 72 comments