Vito Prosciutto: Teaching community college math on the road to a PhD.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The governator's morally dubious reasoning 

As you may have heard by now, the governator* denied Stanley Williams request for clemency.

That he said no, doesn't surprise me. After all, he's watching his approval ratings slide to George W Bush levels and he's trying desparately to appeal to conservatives and liberals to keep from watching Warren Beatty and Mel Gibson battle for his job while he looks over the script for Kindergarten Cop II.

But what does bother me is his reasoning: From the Times article, "Williams, [the governator] said, had never really reformed."

Which puts the governator on morally shaky ground. Before going further, I need to point out a quick bit of my own perspective. I'm a Catholic. And as a Catholic, I don't believe that anyone should be executed. And you'd think that since this is a stance firmly grounded in the Catholic magisterium and since the governator is a co-religionist, he should agree with me, but apparently not. I'm waiting for the bishops to call for him to be denied communion.

Anyway, here's the big problems with the governator's reasoning and why it's morally reprehensible.

  1. It presupposes that anyone can know what's in Stanley Williams's heart. Sorry, it's not possible.
  2. If Williams is, in fact, innocent of the crime for which he was executed, as he claimed to be, then he could not have acted differently than he did.**
  3. If Williams has not properly repented, then mercy dictates that we give him the opportunity to do so.***

* Because, to be honest, I can never remember how to spell his name.

** This is, in fact, a big flaw with sentencing in general in this country. Someone who insists that they're innocent after conviction will get a harsher sentence than someone who does not. Which means that the wrongfully convicted get harsher sentences than those who admit their crimes.

*** Samuel Richardson's Clarissa has a great line about this. Unfortunately, I'm in the office and my copy is at home.

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