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Schwarzenegger and the Politics of Death

by TChris

Politicians fear being perceived as “soft on crime,” but those perceptions may be misplaced. While governors in recent years have too rarely exercised their power to spare inmates from execution, angry voters generally haven’t punished governors who commute a death sentence.

In the decade since 1993, 15 governors have granted clemency in capital punishment cases, mostly on humanitarian grounds. Only one of the governors failed to win re-election. In nearly every case, the approval ratings of the governors who granted clemency remained steady or climbed.

As Gov. Schwarzenegger considers the fate of Tookie Williams, he should be comforted by the realization that his plummeting popularity isn’t likely to be further impaired by granting clemency. If Schwarzenegger’s miserly approach to clemency is based on political fear, the fear is groundless.

He flatly said that clemency should not be used to undo the judgment of the people, and that he'd spare a life only when there is absolute legal and clinical proof that a condemned killer was insane. That shoves the clemency bar past the point of relevance.

Popular governors of the past adopted a more humane approach.

But clemency won't be the death knell for Schwarzenegger's re-election bid. Nor was it for the governors who granted clemency during the 1950s and 1960s, when the death penalty was commonly used. In those years, governors granted clemency to roughly one in four death-row inmates. California Gov. Pat Brown topped that rate. During the late 1950s and 1960s, with no public outcry, Brown granted clemency to one out of three death-row inmates.

Schwarzenegger should learn from his predecessors. Except for the rapidly-shrinking “kill ‘em all” crowd, voters respond well to compassion and humanity. Williams’ case gives Schwarzenegger a chance to prove that he has those qualities.

< Don't Kill For Me: End the Culture of Death | Geoff Fieger's Law Office Searched by Feds >
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  • Re: Schwarzenegger and the Politics of Death (none / 0) (#1)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:34 PM EST
    He flatly said that clemency should not be used to undo the judgment of the people, and that he'd spare a life only when there is absolute legal and clinical proof that a condemned killer was insane.
    I guess suffering lifelong brain damage doesn't count in Arnie's books as equally deserving of a second look...

    Re: Schwarzenegger and the Politics of Death (none / 0) (#2)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:34 PM EST
    I predict clemency. The Terminator is remaking his administration and . Or at least, to me, he seems to be making the attempt. Appointing a new chief of staff who's a democrat and gay ain't happenin' for no reason, people. And I think he feels too much of a personal tug on the Tookie Williams case. But...I could very well be as dismally wrong. Just a hunch.

    Re: Schwarzenegger and the Politics of Death (none / 0) (#3)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:34 PM EST
    I predict clemency. I hope you're right, Dadler. And hope as well that if you are, that Schwarzenegger would grant clemency for reasons other than political gain... such as a recognition that CP is an unnecessary, morally bankrupt practice.

    Re: Schwarzenegger and the Politics of Death (none / 0) (#4)
    by Dadler on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:34 PM EST
    edger, i think he might in his steroid enlarged heart, but whether he'd cite that in public, i don't know and probably doubt it. and now that i think about my prediction, i think i sound crazy.

    Re: Schwarzenegger and the Politics of Death (none / 0) (#5)
    by Edger on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:34 PM EST
    i think i sound crazy. I don't think wishing for real human compassion and an ability to act for reasons beyond personal or political gain is crazy at all

    Re: Schwarzenegger and the Politics of Death (none / 0) (#6)
    by learned hound on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:35 PM EST
    The predictions are nice, but it might make sense to sign the online petition asking Schwartzeneger to grant Tookie clemency. . Here! http://www.petitiononline.com/stw4804/petition.html It's about all there is at the moment

    Re: Schwarzenegger and the Politics of Death (none / 0) (#7)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:35 PM EST
    Let's not forget Bill Clinton, who killed a mentally retarded man for political gain.

    Re: Schwarzenegger and the Politics of Death (none / 0) (#8)
    by Ernesto Del Mundo on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:06:37 PM EST
    Varones...just cuz Clinton did it, that doesnt make it right. (sarcasm alert)