I'm conflicted in my thoughts on the death penalty.
On the one hand, I believe criminals need appropriate punishments for their crimes. Since I am not married, nor do I have kids, I use the "what if this happened to my parents?" test. And Jah forbid, if anything ever did (knock on wood), I'd want the perp to be brought to justice - to the fullest extent. I can totally sympathize with Rebecca Owens, whose father was killed by Stanley "Tookie" Williams:
"He killed my father, and that will never change," [Owens] said. "I think he is a horrible and awful man.I don't disagree with the devastation Owens feels surrounding her father's death. But my logic tells me that it's a fine line between "justice" and "vengeance." The former is rational; the other, an emotional response. And the law should be based on reason and logic and not on emotions or subjectivity. Right?
"I don't think it's fair that he gets to breathe and walk around and have interactions, and my father, whose only crime was showing up for work, can't do those things," Owens said. "The impact that my father's death had on me is long-reaching and affects me today."
I'm not saying that I think those in jail convicted of heinous, violent, and truly antisocial crimes should have an easy life in jail, but I am not sure if putting them to death is necessarily the answer. Who am I to judge another person, regardless of their behavior? Who am I to say whether one person should live and another person should die?
And who is to say that an incarcerated person does not have the capacity to reform?
Joe Garofali at the SF Chronicle asks this same question in his column today. Currently, 68% of Californians support the death penalty. And the impending debate surrounding Crips Founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams is the impetus of a very serious converation Californians need to have with themselves.
There is a danger that California may become, as Garofali mentions, "Texified," in that the more executions this state performs (is it even possible to come close to the numbers in Texas, Virginia, and Oklahoma?), the more desensitized our state's citizens will be about putting criminals to death. I don't ever want California to lie on its back when it comes to executions. Each execution this state does should be a horrible process full of public debate, protests, brouhaha, etc. because with every criminal put to death in our state, there needs to be some deep soul searching that goes on by everyone. It's a sad day whenever someone is put to death, regardless of the circumstances.
And since the CA Supreme Court ruled today that Tookie's execution wouldn't be stopped, it all lies in the hands of the Governator, a man who has made millions portraying characters who kill. And you can guarantee that from now until the clock strikes midnight Tuesday morning, it will be some high drama.
Will Tookie's execution - as opposed to life in prison- really make our society better or safer?
I'm not so sure.
(Photo credit: SF Chronicle/Daryl Bush)