Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tookie Williams – was Justice served?

I’m not a fan of the death penalty, but as I’ve written before, I think it’s OK under a limited set of circumstances;

1) We are 100% sure (not “beyond a reasonable doubt” sure but “100%” sure) that the person in question committed the crime.

2) The victim’s family/families want the person executed.

If both criteria are satisfied, then go ahead and fry the bastard. If not, he/she gets life in prison with no possibility of parole, unless, of course, new evidence comes in which exonerates them.

In William’s case, I don’t think the first criteria was satisfied. I will agree there seems to be little dispute about whether or not he committed the 4 murders he was convicted of. But he maintained his innocence until the end and no eyewitnesses to the killings have stepped forward. And, forgive me, but I live in Illinois, a state where the capital punishment system is a sick joke. We have had plenty of experience in this state with people being convicted of a capital crime, spending years (or decades) on death row, and then being exonerated because new evidence (usually DNA) has cleared them. I have little faith in prosecutors who say they are “sure” they have their man. Too often they have been wrong and, in a capital case, the consequences are too severe to allow any possibility of error to enter the equation.

I don’t think you should even entertain the possibility of executing someone unless there is ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT that this person committed the crime. “Beyond a reasonable doubt” is fine for a conviction, but it’s just not good enough when it comes to taking someone’s life.

If there is ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT, then you’ve satisfied the first criteria. At that point, I’d leave it up to the family/families of the victim/s. Some families will want the execution, and they should have this right. For many people, revenge (and let’s be honest – that’s what it is) is what they want and I say let them have it. But others may not believe in the Death Penalty. For them, the criminal’s execution would not bring “closure” but, rather, would be yet another crime. And if they don’t want the criminal killed, then why not just lock him/her up? They’re not going anywhere, and they can be studied, hopefully to find out why some people do these sick things.

So my answer is “No”, I don’t think Justice was served in this case.

What would I do if it was a member of my family who was murdered? I hope I would be honest enough to live up to the standards I’m setting. And, even more, I hope I never have to find out.

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