deathrow
January 11, 2003 11:21 AM   Subscribe

republican governor commutes death row sentences
im sure this will upset the spiteful old bat from illinois whom i was forced to share a table with at a wedding recently - when asked about this issue and innocent men ending up on death row, she responded: "this is war, and sometimes innocents are killed in war"
posted by specialk420 (119 comments total)
 
A war on what? I'm curious. Drugs? Crime? Poverty? The utter and complete failure of US Drug Policy (TM)?
posted by yangwar at 11:25 AM on January 11, 2003


kill her.
posted by Satapher at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2003


Crazy old bat.

My friends and I have decided Governor Ryan is something of a Bulworth. Done as a governor, in trouble for campaign finance whathaveyou, so he really doesn't give a crap about politics anymore and is finally doing some good stuff.
posted by gramcracker at 11:30 AM on January 11, 2003


I am having a really hard time understanding what a "spiteful old bat's" thoughts on the death penalty have to do with "filtering the web"?
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:33 AM on January 11, 2003


I´m completely happy about this.
posted by rdr at 11:33 AM on January 11, 2003


Fantastic news horribly posted.
posted by UrbanFigaro at 11:36 AM on January 11, 2003


This is a brilliant piece of work on Ryan's part; some of the only great and hopeful national news I've heard recently. I wonder, who is the "young prosecutor" from the Oregon conference? Does he have magically persuasive hypno-power? Will he emerge as a powerful force in morally progressive politics? Or was he trying to play devil's advoc. & it backfired on him?
posted by damehex at 11:37 AM on January 11, 2003



filtering the web


goes to the rabid mentality of supporters of the death penalty especially in illinois where it has lead to the most tragic of consequences. torture by chicago police? im sure she would have approved of that as well.. apologies for any toes stepped on with the choice of words in the post.
posted by specialk420 at 11:41 AM on January 11, 2003


Metafilter: Fantastic news horribly posted.
posted by jonmc at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2003


On behalf of the bat community (rabbid, old, and otherwise), specialk420, I DEMAND an apology. Or prepare to find guano in your bed!
posted by jonson at 11:43 AM on January 11, 2003


I can't find it online now, but the Chicago Tribune had an interesting editorial the other day that if Ryan commuted the sentences it would actually have a negative effect on death penalty reform. The reasoning went like this: If everyone on death row was no longer on death row, it would effectively render Ryan's moratorium moot. It would be easy to drop the moratorium after that--death penalty proponents could argue those who had questionable sentences were no longer under the threat of being executed--and so the state could get back to the business of executing those recently found guilty of death-penalty level crimes.
posted by mrbula at 11:47 AM on January 11, 2003


I think it's troubling that one man holds the power to overturn all those sentences. If he's so infallible, why don't they just bring all the cases to him and let him decide, instead of wasting all that time having jury trials and sentencing?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:47 AM on January 11, 2003


He's on CNN right now, and he's spectacular.
posted by nicwolff at 11:48 AM on January 11, 2003


This is fantastic news, horribly reported indeed. heh.
posted by mathowie at 11:50 AM on January 11, 2003


I've lived in Illinois for all but 3 years of my life, and while I'm no fan of the death penalty, I don't think that what Gov. Ryan has done really has done much for the cause of ending the death penalty. It's one thing for him to pardon or commute sentences on a case-by-case basis as he did in the case of the four men who were tortured by Chicago cops. But it's another thing to offer BLANKET commutations for all death row inmates. What about the families of the victims? Wouldn't it have been better to have done something to improve the Illinois criminal justice system and used legislative measures to repeal the death penality in Illinois? Instead, he has effectively castrated the laws of Illinois, that allow for the execution of captial offenders. This from a man who is not trained as a lawyer or law enforcement officer but as a pharmacist.
posted by marcusb at 11:57 AM on January 11, 2003


I agree that a case-by-case basis, would have been much more appropriate.... A grave injustice has been done to the victim's families today...
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:00 PM on January 11, 2003


marcusb, instead of killing people in prison, they'll stay there for life. With a well-run justice system, that should have the same effect on the general population (killers are removed permanently) without the messiness (the state says it's wrong to kill people by killing people that do).
posted by mathowie at 12:02 PM on January 11, 2003


There's no injustice to victim's families, murderers will not be walking around free. All kinds of places don't have the death penalty, there's no injustice to victim's families in those places simply because the recourse of execution is closed to them. And what mathowie said.

This is a very good thing. I admire Ryan's move especially because it's not that he's necessarily anti-death penalty, but because he recognised the prosecutorial and police-related problems in his state, and took the only appropriate first step toward ensuring that (more) innocent people aren't killed by the state. Unless I'm mistaken, the work here was done by journalism students and a private investigator, Ryan just looked at the evidence they'd uncovered and made his decisions based on that (which is not to belittle Ryan, but to point out that this wasn't really as unilateral as it may seem, it's not like he just decided out of thin air to do this, there was persuasive evidence that there were serious enough problems with the police and prosecution in Illinois to warrant a lack of trust in the judicial process there).
posted by biscotti at 12:07 PM on January 11, 2003


A grave injustice has been done to the victim's families today...

No, an injustice was done when the crimes were committed.

Given the evidence, there is little to no doubt that innocent lives were saved today. There's something intrinsically odd about the ethics of someone who is disapponted by that.
posted by goethean at 12:08 PM on January 11, 2003


What about the families of the victims?

What, we should spend millions of dollars per capital murder case in order to kill someone--instead of locking them up for life--so some group of private citizens can have closure? The state is supposed to be the vehicle of personal retribution? Conservatives who decry victims as special interest groups suddenly grow cataracts on this particular subsection. Again, I say we need closure on closure.
posted by y2karl at 12:16 PM on January 11, 2003


I hope this will be a watershed moment in the pursuit of capital punishment in this country. Even if you are a supporter, the facts make clear how capricious, discriminatory, and error-prone our legal system has been since the death penalty was reinstituted.

If you believe there's no greater injustice than the state's execution of an innocent person, Gov. Ryan's actions today are long overdue. The fact that a Republican was capable of this makes me want to reassess the entire party. (In recent years, Democrats have been racing to outdo themselves in support of it.)

Who was the last governor to take such a stand -- Pat Brown in California?
posted by rcade at 12:21 PM on January 11, 2003


I think it's troubling that one man holds the power to overturn all those sentences. If he's so infallible, why don't they just bring all the cases to him and let him decide, instead of wasting all that time having jury trials and sentencing?

Yes. It's an abuse of power and anti-democratic, however much one might approve of the outcome.
posted by rushmc at 12:23 PM on January 11, 2003


that should have the same effect on the general population (killers are removed permanently) without the messiness (the state says it's wrong to kill people by killing people that do)

Observation: the state also says it's wrong to kidnap and hold people captive for the rest of their lives.
posted by rushmc at 12:24 PM on January 11, 2003


I think he is buttering up the prison population since he will be in jail himself soon.
posted by thirteen at 12:25 PM on January 11, 2003


I support the death penalty, and my governor’s choice today has done nothing to convince me that the death penalty is bad. He has, however, done two things: he has "wagged the dog" trying to avoid the stigma of criminal conduct himself. And he has made me realized that the process is bad, which is wholly apart from the penalty. A blanket ban is foolish because it does not distinguish between those who are on death row fairly and those who are not. I praise Gov. Ryan for taking action to remedy past wrongs, but I feel he has ignored the little good work that the IL courts have done (in the cases were the death penalty was applied via due process)
posted by Bag Man at 12:29 PM on January 11, 2003


much like the pardoning of Nixon.

"Yes. It's an abuse of power and anti-democratic, however much one might approve of the outcome."
posted by muppetboy at 12:30 PM on January 11, 2003


It's an abuse of power and anti-democratic, however much one might approve of the outcome.

How is it anti-democratic for the democratically elected governor of a state to use the powers of clemency that are legally established powers of his office?

I think he is buttering up the prison population since he will be in jail himself soon.

To date, Ryan hasn't been indicted for any of the scandals that have plagued his term.
posted by rcade at 12:31 PM on January 11, 2003


It's an abuse of power and anti-democratic...

Aren't governors voted into power? If what he did was legal, how is it anti-democratic?
posted by Bearman at 12:33 PM on January 11, 2003


To date, Ryan hasn't been indicted for any of the scandals that have plagued his term.
It is coming.
posted by thirteen at 12:36 PM on January 11, 2003


aren't republicans intrinsically anti-democratic anyhow? "actually, we're a republic!" and all that?
posted by mcsweetie at 12:37 PM on January 11, 2003


the state also says it's wrong to kidnap and hold people captive for the rest of their lives — rushmc

But if they're later proven innocent, you can let them go. Execution is just a little different...

"The legislature couldn't reform it; lawmakers won't repeal it; and I won't stand for it." — Gov. Ryan

Awe-inspiring. Really, if you can get to CNN, this is a hell of a speech.
posted by nicwolff at 12:39 PM on January 11, 2003


Background for those not from Illinois:

Gov. Ryan chose not to seek a second term of office (his successor takes office in a matter of hours) after being rocked by a scandal that has already led to indictments for many of his close friends and aides. It is very likely that Mr. Ryan himself will indicted after leaving office.

The nature of the scandal is this: While Secretary of State, George Ryan began campaigning for Illinois Governor. The Secretary of State office is responsible for issuing drivers licenses, as well as licences for commercial truckers.

In order to receive a commercial trucking licence, one has to pass certain tests, and prove competency behind the wheel of an 18 wheel vehicle.

"Under his watch" (his words) drivers unable to pass this test obtained licenses by paying a bribes to workers in the Secretary of State's office. Funds from these bribes were funneled into Ryan's campaign fund.

One driver who obtained a license through a bribe, caused an unbelievably tragic accident. A part fell from his truck; landing on the highway, it went underneath a van causing its gas tank to explode.

In the van were six young children and their parents. All six children were killed, and their parents were severely burned.

To some, the blood of these children lies squarely on the hands of Gov. George Ryan. He was, after all, the one who benefited most from the ill gotten bribe money that put that unqualified driver on the road.

Perhaps out of guilt, perhaps out of a desire to leave office with a legacy other than that of a criminal, Ryan has taken historic action in pardoning death row inmates.

It should be noted, however, that Ryan placed a moritorium on the death penalty before the scandal had crippled him politically.
posted by aladfar at 12:47 PM on January 11, 2003


How is it anti-democratic for the democratically elected governor of a state to use the powers of clemency that are legally established powers of his office?

Because it is a misuse of those powers in ways they were not intended in order to circumvent the established results of due process. There are many things that elected officials can do that are un- or anti-democratic.

If what he did was legal, how is it anti-democratic?

Because they aren't the same thing at all.
posted by rushmc at 1:26 PM on January 11, 2003


It's interesting to me that, on a site where most people decry the Bush Administration's quasi-legal indefinite detention of alleged terrorists as an abuse of power, there seems to be a groundswell of support for Governor Ryan's action.

How is one an abuse of power and the other not?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:40 PM on January 11, 2003


A blanket ban is foolish because it does not distinguish between those who are on death row fairly and those who are not

Therein lies the problem with the death penalty altogether. We can't have *any* mistakes in the process. Killing one person that was innocent is totally unacceptable, but there have been at least a few dozen that have been proven completely innocent after we tripped the switch. "Sorry, our bad." is about the only thing the gov't can say.

The unfortunate solution to eliminating any mistakes in the process is to take the finality out of the process. Keep people in jail for life, and apologize profusely if wrongly incarcerated. The alternate (kill everyone on death row, do nothing on the mistakes) is what we've been living with for decades and it's outrageous. It sucks, but a few bad apples (wrongly executed) have definitely spoiled the bunch (of capital cases).
posted by mathowie at 1:43 PM on January 11, 2003


Thank God he had the balls to do that.
posted by Hall at 1:46 PM on January 11, 2003


The trouble is, that by lowering the stakes, by making these not "life or death" cases, will people lose interest? People are really interested in the drama of a wrongful death row case. Would they be so interested in a case with lower repercussions?

By taking the heat off, this may be a step backward for impartial justice.
posted by ednopantz at 1:51 PM on January 11, 2003


By taking the heat off, this may be a step backward for impartial justice

Yes, by all means more people should die to get the point across.

I don't understand this at all. Putting someone in jail for life is a life sentence. It's taking their life in normal society away forever. If people are still in there for unfair reasons, I don't see why anyone would not investigate their trial just because they are living and not dead. I've seen plenty of people pardoned after 10 or 20 or more years in prison and it's still a shame they lost so much of their life (Nelson Mandela anyone?). To say that taking away the threat of death removes the fire from under investigators is odd. I would think the motivation to free someone would be just as great.
posted by mathowie at 1:58 PM on January 11, 2003


rcade: It seems pretty obvious to me that only a Republican could take such a stand these days. Why? Because Republicans made it such a major wedge issue, and had such overwhelming success with it, a la George Bush in the '88 presidential election. (And the death penalty is mostly carried out by the states, already.) Major Democrats are scared to be anti-death penalty because independents and swing voters are in favor of the death penalty, and it isn't a big enough deal to their base (even if polls fairly consistently show a majority of self-described Democrats to be anti-death penalty). It's pure politics, combined with a failure of the imagination and a lack of will. But that's not going to make me think of the Republican Party as a whole in any new light. I don't see why it should.

In any case, this is a governor with nothing to lose politically. Imagine Nixon in China, if that had happened post-Watergate. And Nixon's just saying whatever's on his head. Something similar is going on here.
posted by raysmj at 2:02 PM on January 11, 2003


Because it is a misuse of those powers in ways they were not intended in order to circumvent the established results of due process.

From the Illinois state constitution: "The Governor may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, after conviction, for all offenses on such terms as he thinks proper."

I don't see anything delineating the intent of this power that would exclude Ryan's actions today.
posted by rcade at 2:08 PM on January 11, 2003


How is one an abuse of power and the other not?

The difference is that Ryan's right to do this is clearly given in the Illinois state constitution, while the federal government's indefinite detention of suspects without charges or trial is a pretty egregious violation of the U.S. Constitution.
posted by rcade at 2:10 PM on January 11, 2003


It's interesting to me that, on a site where most people decry the Bush Administration's quasi-legal indefinite detention of alleged terrorists as an abuse of power, there seems to be a groundswell of support for Governor Ryan's action.

I've spent the last 10 minutes re-reading that, and I still can't see any hypocrisy m_c_d's so interested in. I think, m_c_d, you highlighted one of the differences yourself: "quasi-legal" was your term for Bush's indefinite detentions, whereas the clemency powers are explicitly granted the governor in Illinois, and I don't know of any statute (Illinois legal scholars, please correct me if necessary) that says "the governor can grant clemency, but not like, y'know, overdo it or anything because that would be really gauche." Apparently, rushmc and you both feel abuse of power is "using perfectly legal means and a moral stance to accomplish something that we don't agree with us". I suspect most of the anti-Bush-quasi-legal-detention crowd here at Metafilter is opposed to "re-writing the laws and eroding civil liberties under the guise of freedom". You might have a better analogy if Gov. Ryan had used legal trickery or brute force to pardon those prisoners when he didn't have any real legal basis to do so. :)
posted by hincandenza at 2:13 PM on January 11, 2003


Damn me and my slow typing ways! Thanks, rcade, for the succintness and the citation of the Illinois state Constitution.
posted by hincandenza at 2:14 PM on January 11, 2003


"The Governor may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, after conviction, for all offenses on such terms as he thinks proper."

what would the verdict be if he had pardoned or granted clemency to all killers of abortion-rights advocates?
posted by poopy at 2:27 PM on January 11, 2003


Stupid wrong analogy--it should have be what if he commuted the death penalties of all killers of abortion-rights advocates to life sentences without parole?

No problem for me.
posted by y2karl at 2:31 PM on January 11, 2003


So. It's about spiteful old bats.

To analyze the use of the adjective "spiteful" properly in this instance, merely reduce the core argument of death penalty supporters to its core: Killing by the few is wrong. Killing by the many is fine.

So there's that. And so obviously the post should have read "hypocritical old bat"...or "bloodsucking old bat" or maybe "reasoning at the ethical level of the lynch mob old bat".

So "spiteful's" out, and now (damn it all to hell), I can also no longer use my own favorite caustic epithet: "Republican old bat". A Republican (bravo, Ryan) does something right and decent and compassionate and courageous and honorable for a change. Did the earth slew off its axis today, too?

May have to modify my views about (some of) them there critters.

~wink~
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:41 PM on January 11, 2003


Stupid wrong analogy--it should have be what if he commuted the death penalties of all killers of abortion-rights advocates to life sentences without parole?

bzzzzz...wrong answer... again, one more time:

"The Governor may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, after conviction, for all offenses on such terms as he thinks proper."

it's not as simple as changing death penalties to life sentences.

for the record: i'm opposed to the death penalty, not because it is cruel and unusual punishment but precisely for the reasons that the governor has stated.
posted by poopy at 2:49 PM on January 11, 2003


That's beautiful, poopy. Really distills the argument:

Should we kill a murderer for murdering someone he believes to be a murderer to show that murder is wrong?

Oh, no. I see what you're saying. What if some anti-abortion Governor gave clemency to terrorists who murder doctors? Then MeFi would be UP IN ARMS about the whole thing, right? Great argument. Abortion card nicely played.
posted by UrbanFigaro at 2:52 PM on January 11, 2003


Governor Ryan seems to have spun his leaving office into a made for tv "cover your ass" moment. Politically astute, morally bankrupt. I have no problem with the death penalty moratorium, as long as they investigate each case fully - but waving magic pixie dust and saying "death penalty, begone!" is letting off the criminals who deserve the punishment (decided by a jury of their peers).
posted by owillis at 2:55 PM on January 11, 2003


I think Ryan just made a big mistake by not focusing on the specifics of each case. We have an execution scheduled in North Carolina on the 24th, and I wonder if Ryan hasn't just made it tougher for our governor to commute the sentence of a man who was sentenced to death after the SBI and local police *destroyed evidence* that lent support to his defense.

his commutations include some of the state's most notorious convicted killers...[including] a father who tortured his mute, severely retarded and handicapped stepdaughter for five years until she died.

What Ryan seems to have done with his blanket commutation is erase the distinction between legitimate and illegitimate convictions. I don't see how that helps us reform the system. What we need are clear, harsh penalties for prosecutors and judges who hide evidence, coerce confessions or allow justice to be subverted in other ways. A blanket commutation of all death sentences serves only to obscure the key issue of prosecutorial misconduct.
posted by mediareport at 2:57 PM on January 11, 2003


Great argument. Abortion card nicely played.

the argument wasn't about left or right, abortion or pro-life ....ummm....

nevermind.
posted by poopy at 2:57 PM on January 11, 2003


Putting someone in jail for life is a life sentence.

Theoretically. People forget even the most heinous crimes some times, and people get let back out who shouldn't be. Remember this guy, the poster boy for the death penalty? If we say life we better damn well mean it.

Although I believe Ryan did the right thing, I'm for the death penalty, with some serious reservations, basically because there's a certain personality type that commits our most heinous crimes and not only responds to little else but will exploit the compassion of the well meaning to do yet more damage. So, I think we still need the death penalty option.
posted by jonmc at 2:58 PM on January 11, 2003


Matt,

my point was that no one would have cared if Porter or Cruz had been railroaded to life sentences, but because it was the big bad death penalty, it attracted attention. Northwestern's Center on Wrongful Convictions is mostly about the death penalty. The death penalty adds that bit of drama that makes people devote their time, energy, and money because it is literally a life and death matter. By taking the heat off, so to speak, miscarriages of justice become more, not less likely.

Whether or not killing someone is more or less cruel than locking them up, and which is the proper goal, is a whole other matter.
posted by ednopantz at 3:13 PM on January 11, 2003


Mr.Ryan you did one right thing.
posted by elpapacito at 3:29 PM on January 11, 2003


it's not as simple as changing death penalties to life sentences.

poopy, you do know what commutation means, right? It is that simple.

Slightly off topic: alfadar, wow. Do you happen to have a link to that story? Not that I disbelieve you (I think I remember that accident: took place someplace between Chicago and Milwaukee a few years back, right?), I just hadn't heard of that particular wrinkle.

As for the decision, I'd say that Ryan made the best possible decision he could given his-- er-- limited time. Having 13 of 25 death sentences overturned calls for some sort of action, doesn't it? It's dramatic, sure, but if the Illinois penal system is having trouble with the whole "innocent until proven guilty" deal it's better to stop the irreversible punishments until everything gets straightened out.
posted by tyro urge at 3:34 PM on January 11, 2003


hincandenza, let me see if I can distill it to as simple an analogy as I can make. I realize my first attempt was somewhat unclear.

Gov. Ryan, using the powers granted to him by the people, orders a group of people released, and he is praised for it by MeFites.

John Ashcroft, using the powers granted to him by the people, orders a group of people detained and he is vilified for it by MeFites.

Now, do you see the hypocrisy I'm attempting to point out? It's fine with some of the folks here if a government official orders sweeping pardons as long as it agrees with their personal political philosophy, but if another official orders the opposite we're suddenly living in a police state one step from brown-shirted soldiers goose-stepping down Broadway.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 3:43 PM on January 11, 2003


...may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, after conviction, for all offenses...

and to repeat and build upon MCD's argument:

It's fine with some of the folks here if a government official orders sweeping pardons as long as it agrees with their personal political philosophy, but if THAT SAME official orders the opposite we're suddenly living in a police state one step from brown-shirted soldiers goose-stepping down Broadway.
posted by poopy at 3:51 PM on January 11, 2003


ooops. do not click on CONVICTION. repeat: do not click on CONVICTION.
posted by poopy at 3:54 PM on January 11, 2003


John Ashcroft, using the powers granted to him by the people,

Come on, crash, the least you can do is address the argument that's already been offered: Ashcroft is reaching above and beyond existing law; Ryan is not. Do you have a specific response to that?

On another note: Fascinating thoughts about the death penalty and "closure" for victims' families.
posted by mediareport at 3:59 PM on January 11, 2003


John Ashcroft, using the powers granted to him by the people

Actually, no he's not. John Ashcroft wasn't up for election. He is a political appointee. He's also making decisions that are not clearly his prerogative as Attorney General. (There are very real constitutional and legal challenges to the Justice Department's actions.)

Governor Ryan was acting in accordance with the Illinois state constitution, as rcade and others have repeatedly pointed out.

Attorney General Ashcroft is not acting in accordance with the U.S. Constitution, inasmuch as it guarantees things like writs of habeas corpus, the right to confront one's accusers, the right to a speedy trial, the right to defense counsel, et cetera.
posted by Vidiot at 4:02 PM on January 11, 2003


Vidiot and mediareport, as much as I may disagree with John Ashcroft and his politics, so far he has withstood any challenges to his detainment of the Camp XRay prisoners, and so I would say that your arguments, at this time, are moot.

Get back to me when/if the detainments are ruled illegal.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:06 PM on January 11, 2003


Get back to me when/if the detainments are ruled illegal.

But the point, crash, is that they're at least highly questionable *as points of law.* Illinois legislators may decide they need to reign in the governor's pardon power, but there's no doubt that what Ryan did falls within the current bounds of his legal purview.

That's a clear difference - one your agenda in this thread continues to ignore.
posted by mediareport at 4:11 PM on January 11, 2003


"That's a clear difference - one your agenda in this thread continues to ignore."

No, my agenda is that one person shouldn't wield that much power regardless of which side of the political aisle he sits.

How is that not understandable?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:26 PM on January 11, 2003


Also, until the various challenges have worked their way through the courts, Ashcroft's actions have been every bit as legal as Ryan's. No court has yet ruled against the detainment of the XRay prisoners, and, in fact, the Padilla case just survived another legal challenge, and he is a U.S. citizen.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:30 PM on January 11, 2003


Because, in Ryan's case, the powers are granted to him in his state's constitution. Don't like it? Fine. Work to amend the constitution.

In Ashcroft's case, those powers are explicitly forbidden to him by the country's constitution. Don't like it? Then I guess one's on the side of the terrorists. (That's the message he's sending, anyway.)
posted by Vidiot at 4:30 PM on January 11, 2003


mr_crash_davis, I do see your point and it is an interesting one. I forgot to mention earlier, while I do agree with Ryan, it was possibly a little far-reaching on first read, but hearing that 13 people were going to potentially be put to death wrongfully, you have to admit something significant should be done. Perhaps changing all sentences to life in prison w/o release was a bit much, but what other option could there be?

Can a Gov. put a moritorium on executions for a couple years time for investigation? That might have been a better option.
posted by mathowie at 4:38 PM on January 11, 2003


crash, I have problems with broad executive branch pardon power. At the very least, pardons should always be publicly reviewed and citizens given a chance to offer comments before any pardon becomes final. But your callout of some unnamed subset of MeFi users for its terrible hypocrisy is misplaced here.

On preview, what Vidiot said, too. Well-put.
posted by mediareport at 4:39 PM on January 11, 2003


I think it's troubling that one man holds the power to overturn all those sentences. If he's so infallible, why don't they just bring all the cases to him and let him decide, instead of wasting all that time having jury trials and sentencing?

The irony here, crash, is that I have no idea if you're talking about Governor Ryan or God.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:43 PM on January 11, 2003


...John Ashcroft wasn't up for election. He is a political appointee. He's also making decisions that are not clearly his prerogative as Attorney General....

the courts have ruled that Ashcroft et. al. are justified in carrying out just about any actions they see fit to protect the country against 'terrorists' in a time of 'war'. are these actions ethical? not according to me. the power of the executive branch vs. everyone else is a very delicate thing and everyone here is quick to point out the fed. govt's abuses.

MCD has made very persuasive arguments why this kind of power should be taken very seriously, whether it be federal or state. ANY government official should be held responsible for their decisions while in office, especially if they let their own personal politics corrupt an otherwise balanced(?) system.
posted by poopy at 4:44 PM on January 11, 2003


I think Governor Ryan's actions were fair in light of his criticism. One of his chief problems with the death penalty seems to be the process by which it is enacted. The process itself is fundamentally capricious and consequently unfair. Every one of the sentences that were commuted is a result of that process. So, given the admitted legal rectitude of the decree, I think it has logistical soundness to it as well.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 4:46 PM on January 11, 2003


although, on a personal level, i'm hooting and cheering Mr. Ryan for this bold move. everyone knows how screwed up the justice system is and has heard the stats on deathrow inmates. it's about time someone made a statement... and what a statement! damn!
posted by poopy at 4:52 PM on January 11, 2003


It's fine with some of the folks here if a government official orders sweeping pardons...

There were only three pardons, the rest were commuted to life sentences.
posted by biscotti at 4:56 PM on January 11, 2003


ANY government official should be held responsible for their decisions while in office, especially if they let their own personal politics corrupt an otherwise balanced(?) system.

Agreed. And I'm actually not too hot on the issue of executive pardons, myself. But my point is that there is a huge difference between exercising powers that are legally yours (...as in specifically spelled out by your state's constitution) and exercising powers that are specifically denied to you by the supreme law of the land.

And poopy, the decision that both you and crash cite does not say that Ashcoft & Co. are "justified in carrying out just about any actions they see fit"...it says that "the review of battlefield captures in overseas conflicts is a highly deferential one." Not the same thing at all. (even though I agree with neither interpretation, my personal opinion is neither here nor there.)
posted by Vidiot at 4:58 PM on January 11, 2003


poopy, if my link to a dictionary term was insulting in any way, I apologize, but honestly, I have no idea what you're getting at. Both my link and yours define commutation as a legal term meaning the conversion of a penalty to a less severe one. Ryan commuted the sentences of those on death row to life in prison. Why do you say this was beyond his power?

mr_crash_davis, I look at it this way: our Constitution and Bill of Rights are designed to maximize personal freedom. The burden of proof is always on the prosecuting party-- you know, the whole "innocent until proven guilty" thing.

Through his actions, Governor Ryan emphasizes the Illinois state government's responsibility to thoroughly prove the guilt of their detainees in a "beyond a shadow of a doubt" type way. Can't do it? Didn't follow the rules? Too bad, guess he'll have to walk. "Better to let n guilty men go free" and all.

Ashcroft seems to have the opposite idea. "Look, I caught a terrorist! Proof? Look, he had ill intent-- just trust me. Anyone who doesn't trust me is suspicious himself." This approach, which shifts the benefit of the doubt from the individual to the government, makes some people uncomfortable. Burden of proof on government = good; burden on individual = bad. Where's the hypocrisy in that?

By the way, the links you two furnished don't mention Jose Padilla, who was arrested in-- Chicago, wasn't it? This Hamdi guy was supposedly arrested in Afghanistan. Am I missing something?

(On preview: Argh! Curse my long-winded slow typing! I'm missing football. What Vidiot said.)
posted by tyro urge at 5:18 PM on January 11, 2003


"...it says that "the review of battlefield captures in overseas conflicts is a highly deferential one." Not the same thing at all.

yeah, i agree and i shouldn't have used exaggeration as a weapon:).

but, it does raise the question of the abuse of power: if (hehe) a governor or president is given the power to pardon anyone he/she wants to then we must ask ourselves whether this is a good or bad thing, whether or not we agree with the decision.
posted by poopy at 5:31 PM on January 11, 2003


no offense taken tyro. just wanted to show off my limitless knowledge of the english language... ok, my embarrassingly limited knowledge accompanied by the dictionary ;)
posted by poopy at 5:41 PM on January 11, 2003


Exaggeration works just fine as a weapon (else this site wouldn't be nearly as popular.) It just gets tricky when talking about legal issues. I remember one professor of mine telling us that courts will do anything possible not to decide anything, and when they do decide something, their aim is to make the decision as narrowly defined as possible.

I do agree that executive pardons aren't the best idea, for the most part. I think they raise too many questions regarding undue influence and behind-the-scenes deals. Better to do away with 'em. But...I'm torn, since I do think they have their uses (f'r instance, I applaud Gov. Ryan's decision.) Clearly, as long as he has the power, he should exercise it as he sees fit. But I'm in favor of rescinding that power, especially at the national level.
posted by Vidiot at 5:50 PM on January 11, 2003


But...I'm torn, since I do think they have their uses (f'r instance, I applaud Gov. Ryan's decision.)

yeah...that's where i'm torn too. but i know there are those who completely oppose Ryan's decision (looking in your direction dad:)) because they believe that ------

well, the government (and media, mind you) is being corrupted again by those nasty little hobbitses liberals... and back and forth goes the merry-go-round... again.
posted by poopy at 6:05 PM on January 11, 2003


The unfortunate solution to eliminating any mistakes in the process is to take the finality out of the process. Keep people in jail for life, and apologize profusely if wrongly incarcerated.

You may feel that life in prison is preferable--and therefore a lesser sentence--than execution, but not all would agree.

Apparently, rushmc and you both feel abuse of power is "using perfectly legal means and a moral stance to accomplish something that we don't agree with us".

Please stop misrepresenting my position. I have not stated anywhere in this thread whether or not I agree with his goal; I have only commented on his methods.
posted by rushmc at 6:18 PM on January 11, 2003


wait, so is the death penalty a good thing or a bad thing?
posted by mcsweetie at 6:54 PM on January 11, 2003


a transcript of the speech is on cnn, if you want to read it.
http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Midwest/01/11/ryan.text.one.ap/index.html
posted by pemulis at 7:40 PM on January 11, 2003


As requested: An article detailing Gov. Ryan to the deaths of 6 children. This isn't the best article out there, but it's the best I could do on short notice. For those to lazy to click through, here's an excerpt:

Witness Ricardo Guzman. Five years ago, on a highway near Milwaukee, a large metal bracket fell of Guzman’s rig, tumbling onto the road and eventually underneath Rev. Duane Scott Willis’ van. Willis had only seconds to get out of the obstruction’s way, and it wasn’t enough. The bracket punctured the van’s engine, and the van caught fire. Duane and his wife, Janet, survived, but all six of their children did not.

Granted, the accident Guzman caused was just that. But it could have and would have been prevented if Guzman could speak English. Guzman brushed off repeated warnings from another trucker about the loose bracket because he couldn’t understand what he was saying. And a simple understanding of the vehicle he drove would’ve helped, too; it’s hard to imagine that the bracket just suddenly detached itself.

Roberto Guzman is one of 80 drivers whom Gonzalo Mendoza helped obtain an unlawful license at one of the Illinois’ testing facilities. Unfortunately, one man’s work doesn’t cover it: Mendoza is one of a handful of men who have pleaded guilty to providing scores of wannabe drivers with crooked licenses. Names aren’t too important right now, except for one: These men managed these facilities while George Ryan was Illinois’ Secretary of State, and thus worked very closely under Ryan. In case you don’t know, George Ryan is our governor now.
posted by aladfar at 8:03 PM on January 11, 2003


Gov. Ryan, using the powers granted to him by the people, orders a group of people released

Maybe you'd have a point if they were back on the streets, and not still imprisoned for life.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 8:14 PM on January 11, 2003


You may feel that life in prison is preferable--and therefore a lesser sentence--than execution, but not all would agree.

well, most criminal law does assume that the death penalty is the severest sentence out there. Not all may agree, but I'd say most would.

Especially those on death row.
posted by Vidiot at 8:18 PM on January 11, 2003


Bravo. This may spur the end of the death penalty in the United States, which would be something of which to be proud. Bravo.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:32 PM on January 11, 2003


There's some fuckers that DESERVE to die. Their convictions read like a demon's resume. But you've got to ask yourself, what if it was you? What if some low IQ, bent cop tortured a confession out of you? How do you feel about capital punishment then?

I'm from Texas where we rival the Taliban in executions. And I still think there are crimes that you have to forfeit you life for. But some states legal systems are systemically fucked up. Illinois is one of them and there are probably more.
posted by Zombie at 8:50 PM on January 11, 2003


The news tonight was pretty interesting. They did a short retrospective of some of the uglier crimes that put some of those people on death row. Mostly famous cases, like the one woman who had her child cut from her stomach, before 2 of her other kids were murdered as well etc. These should have been examined case by case, and most all of the people are guilty of the crimes they were convicted for.

Gov. Ryan may have been within his rights, indeed he could pardon every criminal in the state if he wanted to, but his did not serve the majority of citizens of this state, and almost certainly not the people who voted for him. He is a disgrace and ultimately a failure. I am glad to see him go, for any number of reasons.
posted by thirteen at 9:55 PM on January 11, 2003


I for one am appalled at how all these people I've never met and don't know the names of and would never recognize if I saw them or heard their names are now not going to die for their horrible crimes against all those people I've never met and don't know the names of and would never recognize if I saw them or heard their names.

Seriously. I can't believe how many people are treating this like some movie where the bad guy doesn't get killed in the end.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:02 PM on January 11, 2003


thirteen: you're talking as if he pardoned every death row inmate, this is not what happened. He merely commuted their death sentences to life terms. Given that the track record of the Illinois justice system is pretty abominable, and that more than a couple of innocent men were saved from death at the hands of the state, surely even a supporter of the death penalty (in fact, especially a supporter of the death penalty) would want to ensure that the right people are being punished for the crimes.
posted by biscotti at 11:23 PM on January 11, 2003


Governor Ryan evidently got letters from a number of death row inmates pleading with him not to commute their sentences.

Ryan's commutation of all the death sentences is meant to send a message that the whole process of the death penalty is screwed up. Which it is. However, I suspect he could have sent the same message by letting a few of the killers who are guilty of the most heinous murders and who no one seriously argues is innocent stay on death row while commuting most of the sentences. I oppose the death penalty because the system is so screwed up, but I am not opposed to certain individual executions, so that is what I probably would have done in his shoes.
posted by gspira at 11:54 PM on January 11, 2003


I for one am appalled at how all these people I've never met and don't know the names of and would never recognize if I saw them or heard their names are now not going to die for their horrible crimes against all those people I've never met and don't know the names of and would never recognize if I saw them or heard their names.

Yeah, because if my personal emotions don't get all stirred up over a particular crime, it didn't occur.
posted by rushmc at 10:14 AM on January 12, 2003


thirteen: you're talking as if he pardoned every death row inmate, this is not what happened.
I am well aware of what he did. I do not consider life in prison to be anything like an appropriate sentence for murder.

It has been YEARS since the moratorium went into effect, and they could have easily picked out the problematic cases without sparing the clearly guilty. There are a lot of terrible people who have been helped out by this governor.
posted by thirteen at 11:15 AM on January 12, 2003


Therein lies the problem with the death penalty altogether. We can't have *any* mistakes in the process. Killing one person that was innocent is totally unacceptable, but there have been at least a few dozen that have been proven completely innocent after we tripped the switch. "Sorry, our bad." is about the only thing the gov't can say.

What if no "mistake" was made in some cases? I guess we'll never know. What if "the system" did not fail some? I guess we'll never know. What if the process was fair for some? I guess we'll never know. I know, let's dispense with due process all together! I know that's what you want.
posted by Bag Man at 11:24 AM on January 12, 2003


Perfect justice is impossible. Therefore, let us abandon justice and celebrate a wanton chaos!
posted by rushmc at 3:31 PM on January 12, 2003


I know, let's dispense with due process all together!

Like others have pointed out these people's sentences have been commuted to LIFE in prison. This does not change the verdict of guilty. This does not let criminals back onto the street.

I fail to see how anyone would argue that it is good and worthwhile to spend any more tax payer money on reinvestigating and/or retrying 156 people just so that you can put some of them to death for real.

The sad hidden truth of our death penalty system is not just that it has proven itself to be increasingly unreliable and fallable, but that it costs significantly more to kill a person than it does to let them live a life in prison.

I fail to understand how conservatives who are so pro-life in some respects as well as being so fiscally responsible in others aren't against the death penalty in greater numbers.
posted by aaronscool at 4:00 PM on January 12, 2003


Yeah, because if my personal emotions don't get all stirred up over a particular crime, it didn't occur.

Stir your emotions all you want, just don't act like you should be on the jury. The "emotional feelings of the families of the victims" are irrelevant, that is in no way what the criminal justice system is meant to appease. Ryan made such a point in his speech yesterday: how are the emotions of the victims' family any greater or less than, say, the families of the criminal- truly a group that has an equal lack of any burden for the punishment, or, as I was sarcastically pointing out, the emotions of complete strangers?

Anyone who's opinion of judging or sentencing due to emotional conflict is someone who should be as far away from their opinion affecting justice, not the other way around. Justice must be blind and impartial for it to truly be Justice, and not beholden to the whims of indirectly involved participants affected by those involved in the crime, let alone to the whims of countless millions who are suddenly outraged that they have been made aware of the basic fact that their opinion has no relevance whatsoever.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 5:36 PM on January 12, 2003


For anyone who hasn't already read the transcript of the speech at the link posted by pemulis above, I strongly recommend you do so. Wow.
posted by tdismukes at 5:51 PM on January 12, 2003


It has been YEARS since the moratorium went into effect, and they could have easily picked out the problematic cases without sparing the clearly guilty.

First off, four of the "most problematic cases" (out of roughly 160 Death Row cases) were represented by the pardons on Friday -- namely, Aaron Patterson and 3 other members of the group of prisoners known as Death Row 10 who gave false confessions under torture. (Full disclosure: when I lived in Chicago till June 2000, I was actively involved in campaigning for Aaron's release -- his mom and I used to drive to prison together frequently -- and part of the broader coalition calling for the moratorium.)

But what would you have him do with the other 160 or so? Even if only half of them had plausible claims of innocence where DNA testing wasn't an option (because obviously, murderers don't always leave their own DNA at the scene; even when they do, physical evidence in older cases frequently decays or is even thrown out), that's 80 cases to reopen -- 80 investigative teams to spend months or, quite possibly, years researching evidence, reinterviewing witnesses and suspects, etc. -- which you think he could have "easily" done on his own? And as for the clemency board, the hearings went entirely too fast as to give a full, in-depth investigation into each case where there could be a range of questions regarding innocence, unequal sentencing, prosecutorial misconduct, or any other number of issues that can complicate the matter of individual death sentences.

Besides, the Illinois Clemency Board (and, at times, the Illinois Supreme Court) are themselves no cakewalk when it comes to "problematic" cases -- maybe no Texas, but still overwhelmingly disinclined to recommend clemency or grant appeals as a whole. The clemency board wasn't moved by the case of Anthony Porter, for example, who came within 48 hours of being executed before getting a stay based not on the likelihood of his innocence but on his mental capacity (only in the ensuing time did some journalism students track down the real killer!). Neither the board nor the supreme court (nor Ryan's predecessor Jim Edgar) were moved by the tragic case of Girvies Davis, who was executed despite overwhelming evidence of his innocence. Nor were they moved by cases where guilt wasn't itself a question, but where there was plausible argument that the murderer actually had something to contribute socially by having his sentence commuted to life in prison (such as Walter Stewart, who was executed despite even the prison warden's pleas for his life because he had been such a model prisoner who had made a positive contribution in terms of keeping the peace between prison gangs, setting up literacy programs behind bars, etc.). In short, Illinois has showed that as a state it possessed no other consistently meaningful, reliable means of clemency; moreover, the legislature has repeatedly refused to enact any of the basic reforms that Ryan's commission had recommended in order to lower the possibility that innocent people would be wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death.

In other words, had the Illinois clemency board or the legislature shown the slightest shred of good faith in terms of genuinely working to ensure that innocent people weren't put to death, Ryan would not have been in a position to do what he did. So ironically, I'm glad that they didn't, because it meant that at the end of the day Ryan had the opportunity to act on the courage of his convictions to do what he believed was right -- not politically expedient, but right.
posted by scody at 6:38 PM on January 12, 2003


But what would you have him do with the other 160 or so? Even if only half of them had plausible claims of innocence where DNA testing wasn't an option (because obviously, murderers don't always leave their own DNA at the scene; even when they do, physical evidence in older cases frequently decays or is even thrown out), that's 80 cases to reopen

You sound as tho you believe the majority of the prisoners are innocent. Seriously, you think that the innocence of half of the death row population is a conservative guess? I admire your nihilism. The innocent must be sorted out, I will support you in that. If my first request was too hard for the governor to work towards, how about not sparing the clearly guilty. That shoulld not have been quite so hard.


I'm glad that they didn't, because it meant that at the end of the day Ryan had the opportunity to act on the courage of his convictions to do what he believed was right -- not politically expedient, but right.
You say right, like it was a fact and not just your opinion. It carries just as much weight as when I say that you are wrong.
posted by thirteen at 8:41 PM on January 12, 2003


wow. a better man.
posted by zerofoks at 10:11 PM on January 12, 2003


You sound as tho you believe the majority of the prisoners are innocent. Seriously, you think that the innocence of half of the death row population is a conservative guess? I admire your nihilism.

That's not nihilism, that's good if exceedingly naive statistics; just good old-fashioned Bayes' Rule. A trial is a test for an exceedingly rare condition, that of being a murderer. Even if the test is itself overwhelmingly accurate in any given case, you're going to get lots and lots of false positive.

For instance, if 1 in 10,000 people is a murderer and you use a method that 99% of the time correctly identifies guilt or innocence, then given a conviction there's a *does the math* 99.01% chance that the person is innocent. 99% of the guilty go to jail, 99% of the innocent are exonerated, but 1% of the innocent is much much bigger than 99% of the guilty.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 PM on January 12, 2003


none of this is 'hypocritical' if you belive the death penalty is more wrong then 'undermining' the democratic system. Personaly, if the mob wants to go killing people, they can go fuck themselves.

Some things are more important then democracy.
posted by delmoi at 1:42 AM on January 13, 2003


Bravo, Guv'ner.

I read the entire statement and would encourage everyone to do the same. Beyond that, I have this to say:
  • I can not say with certainty that I would never kill someone.
  • I can not say with certainty that no circumstances exist where one human might not be right to kill another.
  • I can not say with certainty that some members of society commit crimes so heinous, or are so evil, that they do not deserve to be killed.
  • What I can say with certainty is that no representative government should kill in the name of justice.
posted by Dick Paris at 3:17 AM on January 13, 2003


You may feel that life in prison is preferable--and therefore a lesser sentence--than execution, but not all would agree.

I think that if I absolutely knew I was going to spend the rest of my life in a maximum-security jail I would prefer death. However, if I was innocent I'd certainly be holding out for that appeal. A posthumous pardon isn't much use.
posted by Summer at 8:28 AM on January 13, 2003


But no one's suggesting taking away your appeals. People generally aren't executed until they have exhausted all of their appeals. At what point does holding out for a miraculous release become pure fantasy and wish-fulfillment?
posted by rushmc at 9:14 AM on January 13, 2003


"At what point does holding out for a miraculous release become pure fantasy and wish-fulfillment?" -rushmc

"I couldn't believe the system that I had believed in could come that close to executing an innocent man -- to come within two days of killing a man for a crime he did not commit." -Gov. Ryan

48 hours before your scheduled death?
posted by Dick Paris at 10:19 AM on January 13, 2003


I wonder about the mentality of people who seem somewhat pained by the fact that a human life wasn't snuffed out
posted by johnnyboy at 1:19 PM on January 13, 2003


aaronscool,

I know the difference between clemency and commuting a sentence, please don’t insult my intelligence.

Next, to clarify, my post has nothing to do with the relative merits of the death penalty. I happen to support the death penalty, but that’s ultimately a question for me, as a citizen of IL, and the IL legislature. The sentences were comminuted because of bad process...thus, my post was about the process of administering the death penalty, NOT the penalty itself.

aaronscool, did you bother to read my post? If you did, your comments do not reflect that.

My post was about the process by which Gov. Ryan chose to commute the sentences of all those on death row. What was Ryan’s state purpose? To cure defects in the process (note that emphases on the process) in which the death penalty was administered. He, however, did not examine the facts surrounding all the times the death penalty was administered. Ryan simply ignored the findings and judgment of many, many judges and juries. Is this fair? No. He is asserting because there is some evidence discrimination in sentencing that all sentencing must have involved discrimination or wrong doing. That’s like saying if a person of X ethnicity is guilty of a crime than all people of that ethnicity being tried for that crime must be guilty of that crime. Please, I strongly doubt all those on death row are helpless victims of "the system." In some instances the death penalty was administered fairly, but I guess we'll know. Gov. Ryan has used the worst the boot strapping argument in the history of law.

I wonder about the mentality of people who seem somewhat pained by the fact that a human life wasn't snuffed out

I wonder about the mentality of those people who want to see a legal system run by second guessing, ignorance of the facts and bootstrapping.

johnnyboy, this about the process, NOT the penalty itself...or perhaps you agree that we should ignore judies, juries without the facts or a careful examination of the facts in each and every case. I never though I would find people on MIFI who support the administration of a penalty with out fair process.

johnnyboy, I understand your feelings about the death penalty, but what about rule law? What about application of a sentence by the described process? What about examination of the facts? What about examining of all the cases on their own merits? I guess that all goes out the window if you don't agree with the end results.

I guess you don't like a system of judges and juries or democracy. I pity those who would abandon a systems were one's peers decide one's fate. I suppose you also support Bush's secret trials, or that least that what happens when the described legal process is circumvented by the executive with violent disregard for the actual facts, circumstances and procedure.

Gov. Ryan should have made his decision on a case by case biases and if wrong doing was found it should have been corrected on a case by case biases, that what it come down to, period…that’s my point after all my ranting. Is that so wrong? Is that so complicated to understand?
posted by Bag Man at 2:30 PM on January 13, 2003


Seriously, you think that the innocence of half of the death row population is a conservative guess?

Sorry, should have clarified: I was using the idea of half of death row cases having plausible claims of innocence speculatively, but in accordance with Illinois' roughly "50-50" record of 12 executed (with at least one highly likely to have been innocent) and 13 exonerated since 1977. (And that's actually now 17 exonerated, given Friday's pardons.) I have no good idea of how many people on death row are actually innocent; neither do any of the lawyers I know who work on capital cases -- that ought to be chilling enough. Certainly in many instances there is no real dispute over guilt (and as an abolitionist, I'm against execution in those cases too).

Gov. Ryan should have made his decision on a case by case biases and if wrong doing was found it should have been corrected on a case by case biases, that what it come down to, period.

You really think it's that simple? You think every death row case comes with some "C.S.I." level of overwhelming forensic evidence or (forgive the pun) a smoking gun pointing to blatant police or prosecutorial misconduct? There are many cases in which inmates make claims of innocence and there is no reliable body of reliable evidence to make the call either way. What then? What if, in the case of Aaron Patterson, Jon Burge and his cronies hadn't become notorious for torturing suspects? Or what if the sole "witness" against Aaron had died before recanting? Those are quirks in this case that could have gone either way. He would still be factually innocent, but not necessarily obviously so. Would that still have qualified his case as problematic enough? Or, under those circumstances, would it be easier to dismiss him as a liar who deserved to have poison injected into his veins years ago? Seriously -- those are the fucking stakes. Anthony Porter didn't have obvious "proof" of his innocence until months after his scheduled execution. If it had been left to a "case by case" basis four years ago with only the most obvious claims being granted clemency, Anthony Porter would be dead right now. If you think Porter is the only one out of 167 in Illinois (or more than 3,000 nationwide) who fits that bill, then it's not me who's naive.
posted by scody at 2:58 PM on January 13, 2003


Bag Man I read your post in it's entirety did you read mine? Let me quote the meat of your argument:

What if no "mistake" was made in some cases? I guess we'll never know. What if "the system" did not fail some? I guess we'll never know. What if the process was fair for some?

I have no doubt that out of the 156 cases at least some of them are absolutely guilty of the crimes that they have been accused and convicted of.

I also have no doubt that at least some of them have been wrongly accused, wrongly convicted and due to the failings of our current legal system sentenced to the irrevocable consequence of DEATH INCORRECTLY.

Yes I agree the PROCESS was broken and in my opinion STILL is. This is why I ask again would anyone want to spend another 1-2 million per case reinvestigating, retrying and resentencing these people knowing that the same reasons the PROCESS failed in the first place are not resolved and innocent people might still be executed? Or would you prefer to have a few innocent people executed/murdered so that the larger percentage meets justice?

A sentence of Life w/o parole is cheaper, more humane and allows for mistakes to be corrected over time.
posted by aaronscool at 3:41 PM on January 13, 2003


I dispute the contention that keeping a human being in a cage for the rest of his/her life is by any definition "humane."
posted by rushmc at 5:01 PM on January 13, 2003


I dispute the contention that keeping a human being in a cage for the rest of his/her life is by any definition "humane."

I'd say it most certainly is more humane than a death sentence. That being said I don't think we have any other reasonable solution to certain types of criminals who have no value for human life but to exclude them from our society permanently.
posted by aaronscool at 5:14 PM on January 13, 2003


I'd say it most certainly is more humane than a death sentence.

Would you also rate torturing someone for 30 years as more humane than torturing them for 10 minutes?
posted by rushmc at 6:30 PM on January 13, 2003


You really think it's that simple?

Justice has no price, it's sad some people think that is does. If Ryan had made his decison early there might have been a chance. But he did not, too bad Ryan is not likely to escape the long arm of the law himself. His selfish motive will be revealed when his right hand man (current standing trial) exposes Ryan for the crook he is.

Yes I agree the PROCESS was broken and in my opinion STILL is. This is why I ask again would anyone want to spend another 1-2 million per case reinvestigating, retrying and recommencing these people knowing that the same reasons the PROCESS failed in the first place are not resolved and innocent people might still be executed? Or would you prefer to have a few innocent people executed/murdered so that the larger percentage meets justice?


Again you have missed my point (please read my posts before you post). The process of administrating the death penalty is at issue, NOT the guilt or innocence of those on death row. I have no idea why are talking about the merits of the convictions, that’s not the issue here. The only issue is the sentencing of those convicted or those not grated clemency. Examining court records and the investigation process is possible at a much lower cost and much less time than retrying all those on death row. No reinvestigation of the merits of conviction are need, just the how and why the penalty was assigned. Clear now? I can't believe you all support Bush style bootstrapping and second guess of the judicial system.

For example, Ryan when grant clemency to four men after examining the merits of their cases. Why could he not do the same for the rest? Because he jut might fair administration in some or many cases. Like I said there is no way to tell who was treated unfairly and who was not. What find of cowboy justice is that?

Yes process has failed, but that does not mean it can fixed, nor does it mean it fail all the people.
posted by Bag Man at 6:55 PM on January 13, 2003


Would you also rate torturing someone for 30 years as more humane than torturing them for 10 minutes?

I dunno if you were death row would prefer to be excuted nicely (put to sleep) or opt for a life in prison? I'd imagine most of those on death row (rightly or wrongly) would choose the latter...
posted by aaronscool at 7:29 PM on January 13, 2003


Bag Man I'd suggest you stop assuming I did not read your WHOLE post when I practically quoted the WHOLE thing in mine. I'd also suggest you read the ORIGINAL link's post in which the main reason Ryan gave for commuting the sentences was the possibility of killing innocent people if he did not.

THE ISSUE of the point we are debating in this thread is whether it is better to execute potentially innocent people or whether it is better to not execute anyone at all. This all goes towards the conviction phase of the process. As some 17 people who were formally on Death Row have been freed outright how can you assume that the other 156 are all just convictions? So to answer you quite bluntly I'd say nearly ALL of the 156 cases need to be re-examined throughly, including the conviction, if you wish to implement a reasonable death penalty.

Personally I'd argue that this is no subversion of justice as these men are not free they have not been released into society and they are facing the ultimate punishment without the taking of their lives.
posted by aaronscool at 7:44 PM on January 13, 2003


I'd also suggest you read the ORIGINAL link's post

Hum, I live in IL and have been following this issue for quite sometime. The posted article (as does most sun-times pieces) does not quite capture the issue acutely. In part, the great impious for the moratorium (as stated many times by Gov. Ryan himself) was because of the disparate impact of the death penalty and the unfair application of the death penalty itself. Hence, defects in the sentencing phase of the trial was sited by Ryan was a central issue. Why don’t he grant clemency for more? Likely because so many of the 156 on death row were in fact guilty and re-trying their cases on the merits would yield the same guilty verdict.

when I practically quoted the WHOLE thing in mine

Just because you quoted it does not mean you read it all.

As some 17 people who were formally on Death Row have been freed outright how can you assume that the other 156 are all just convictions

I don't state that and never asserted anything close to that (please read my post more carefully). I merely suggest out of 156 people on death row surely some people were placed on there without mistake or procedural injustice.

Personally I'd argue that this is no subversion of justice as these men are not free they have not been released into society and they are facing the ultimate punishment without the taking of their lives.

I disagree. Second-guessing judges and juries without even a reasonable review is subversion of justice. And is a subversion of the judge and jury system. If these people did not get a fair shake, fix the problems, re-investigate, have independent review of documents, proceedings, etc. and let them have their day in court again. Repeat to fix the past mistakes.

I'd say nearly ALL of the 156 cases need to be re-examined throughly, including the conviction, if you wish to implement a reasonable death penalty.

After all that, I guess you do agree with me.
posted by Bag Man at 9:44 PM on January 13, 2003


As for read posts carefully please do me the same favor.

Second-guessing judges and juries without even a reasonable review is subversion of justice. And is a subversion of the judge and jury system. If these people did not get a fair shake, fix the problems, re-investigate, have independent review of documents, proceedings, etc. and let them have their day in court again. Repeat to fix the past mistakes.

Are you as a taxpayer in Illinois willing to pay the costs of all of this investigation, retrying, and resentencing just so that you can actually put to death those who pass muster? I'm quite certain that your state much like all others is facing quite an enormous deficit this year and next. Are you willing to potentially increase your taxes to pay to put criminals to death? Make no mistake putting a criminal to death costs far more than letting him rot in jail for the rest of his life...

After all that, I guess you do agree with me.
I agree that if we are to have an acceptable death penalty in this country it should be held to even higher standards than "beyond a reasonable doubt". The death penalty should only be sought in extreme cases and the jury commandment should be "absolute certainty". There should be no question when we put someone to death that they are indeed responsible for the crime.

That being said I'm not willing to pay more just to execute criminals. I'd much rather they spent their lives in jail. Call me a pragmatist but this is a cheaper alternative and an easier pill to swallow when you've convicted the wrong man...
posted by aaronscool at 10:46 PM on January 13, 2003


Are you willing to potentially increase your taxes to pay to put criminals to death? Make no mistake putting a criminal to death costs far more than letting him rot in jail for the rest of his life...

I am aware of the death penalty costs more than life imprisonment (as I made this argument once in a debate), but I believe its way too crass to sacrifice justice for incidental cost savings. The cost to execute a person is extremely low compared to IL's overall debt.

Are you as a taxpayer in Illinois willing to pay the costs of all of this investigation, retrying, and resentencing just so that you can actually put to death those who pass muster?

What? A great deal of the expense would fall to private defense lawyers and lawyers doing pro bono work. In fact, I personally a private lawyer who was representing a former death row inmate at cut rate prices. So I am willing to pay the extra pennies it would take to get it right.
posted by Bag Man at 11:44 PM on January 13, 2003


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