The blogs are abuzz about this morning’s execution of convicted murderer Stanley Williams. I don’t have the time or inclination to write a lengthy post, but thought it would be useful to note some of the conversations.
Background: Williams killed four people in 1979, and around the same time, he founded a violent street gang. In more recent years, he has claimed to have reformed while in prison. Various of his supporters have nominated him for Nobel prizes. (Though, as professor Eugene Volokh notes, there are serious questions about the accuracy of Nobel nominations as a barometer of character).
Some interesting thoughts on the execution can be found at Crooked Timber — Chris Bertram makes an argument that the state is executing a different person than the murderer, due to changes in Williams’ character. Jon Carrol raises a standard anti-death-penalty argument: “A society should be slightly more civilized than its sociopaths.” And Doug Berman discusses the morality of clemency.
If you’re looking for a diatribe in either direction, you won’t find it here. Many of my friends and colleagues are deeply opposed to the death penalty on a philosophical level. I am not. I really have no moral qualms about the use of capital punishment in a case of perfectly clear guilt. (I have no opinion on whether guilt has been sufficiently established in the Williams case).
Other friends and colleagues are staunch proponents of the death penalty; I don’t fall within that camp either. I think that I’m at least somewhat familiar with the realities of the criminal justice system, and I am deeply troubled at how actual cases are decided. I have very strong procedural reservations about the use of the death penalty, but they are only procedural.
I don’t know that Mormonism requires a position one way or the other on this issue. It’s an interesting topic. For some start thoughts on the question of how our views on the death penalty should be impacted by our Mormonism, let me recommend Gordon’s excellent prior post from a while back, which also generated many interesting comments.
Alas, that’s all that I have time to say on the topic. I recognize that there are a lot of interesting issues here, and I’ll defer to our excellent commenting community to bring them out.
p.s. This is a sensitive topic. BE NICE.