December 14, 2005

EVIL EVEN FROM BEYOND:

Watching the Death of Inmate C29300 (Jenifer Warren, December 14, 2005, LA Times)

At 12:01 Tuesday morning, having exhausted all appeals, Stanley Tookie Williams walked slowly into San Quentin's death chamber, shackled at the wrists and waist and escorted by four burly guards.

After he climbed onto a padded gurney, officers buckled Williams down with wide black straps across his shins, thighs, belly and chest. His arms, stretched out to the side, were secured with leather restraints.

At 12:03 a.m., two guards pulled on surgical gloves as another entered the mint-green chamber with a plastic tub of supplies. Three minutes later, a needle was thrust successfully home into Williams' right arm and connected to an intravenous tube.

The rules, however, require a backup in case one tube is jostled loose or fails. And it was here that the carefully choreographed execution turned messy.

For 12 long minutes, a prison nurse — her brow glistening with sweat — poked the convict's muscular left arm again and again, searching for a vein that would deliver a dose of poison. As his loved ones watched in distress, the inmate visibly winced in pain.

Ultimately, the needle found its mark, a stream of lethal chemicals flowed, and Williams — convicted of murdering four people with a shotgun in 1979 — drew his final breath.

Surprising many, he did not leave a statement for the warden to read. But his closest supporters made sure his departure from the world was not a quiet one. Filing out after witnessing the execution, they yelled a message in unison:

"The state of California just killed an innocent man!"

The startling cry pierced the silence that had cloaked the small observation room, and relatives of Williams' victims appeared shaken. Lora Owens, whose stepson, Albert, was gunned down at a West Whittier convenience store, hunched forward in her brown metal chair and wept. Another woman wrapped her in an embrace.


Should have quartered the corpse at that point.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 14, 2005 8:14 AM
Comments

Or at least buried it at the crossroads.

Posted by: David Cohen at December 14, 2005 8:29 AM

Should have been pay-per-view.

Posted by: Rick T. at December 14, 2005 9:30 AM

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

2267 Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the ONLY possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically nonexistent."

Every Catholic ignores those parts of the Catechism that they disagree with.

Liberal Catholics ignore the parts about birth control.

Conservative Catholics ignore the parts about the death penalty and the waging of just wars.

Posted by: bplus at December 14, 2005 10:04 AM

A gang leader like Tookie has a great capacity for still doing harm despite incarcartion. So his death is permitted by the Catholic doctrine you cited. Thanks for agreeing.

Posted by: Bob at December 14, 2005 10:11 AM

Bob,

A "capacity for doing harm" is not the Catechism's test for allowing the death penalty. It has nothing to do with the issue at all.

Please reread: if this is the ONLY possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor

There are obviously other possible ways of effectively defending society from scumbags like Tookie (life imprisonmnet without possibility of parole in solitary confinement for example). Note that the Catechism does not require that these other methods be perfect, only effective.

But like I said, Conservative Catholics ignore the Catechism when it suits them just as much as Liberal Catholics.

Posted by: bplus at December 14, 2005 10:33 AM

The cries of his supporters prove the point I made earlier.

Tookie was brazenly playing the system, not to have his sentence commuted, but to eventually get out of jail.

Good riddance.

Posted by: Bruno at December 14, 2005 10:46 AM

Too bad we're not all Catholic around here. (By the way, that same argument gets tossed around in the Permanent Floating Darwin Bashing Thread from time to time. But the Pope says Evolution is fiiine. The Pooooope!!!!! This to an audience that's as much evangelical, agnostic and Jewish as it is Catholic. Go figure.)

Posted by: joe shropshire at December 14, 2005 10:51 AM

The "inmate visibly winced in pain..."

Gee I wonder how the three people he killed with a shotgun felt when they were brutally murdered for $120.00?

Posted by: Bartman at December 14, 2005 10:59 AM

Sorry, bplus, that dog won't hunt. The Church has responded to your like many, many times in recent years. The death penalty is an issue on which Catholics may in good conscience differ, as is whether a war is just. Abortion & euthanasia are among issues on which one may not.

Posted by: b at December 14, 2005 11:04 AM

joe:

No one questions evolution--Genesis is a tale of evolution.

Posted by: oj at December 14, 2005 11:25 AM

b,

We are in agreement in that the RCC does not absolutely forbid the death penalty as it does abortion or euthanasia. Again from the Catechsim:

... the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty

However, the Catechism does provide strict guidelines as to when the death penalty is morally acceptable (as it does with its just war doctrine). The question is, have these guidelines been met to justify the execution of Tookie? Given that there are other means of effectively preventing further harm by this individual, the answer would be no.

The criteria of "effective other means" also exhonerates the RCC from past involvement with the death penalty (though strictly speaking, the Church never killed anyone but merely handed the criminal or heretic over to the secular arm for execution), or for that matter St. Augustine declaration that the death penalty is justified, or the Old Testement death penalties for any number of infractions.

In a society that lacked a modern penal and justice system (the tribal Israelites, ancient Rome or Medieval Europe) there were no other effective means of preventing further harm - thus justifying the death penalty used by those societies. The core truth of the RCC remains unchanged, however the circumstances governing its application have evolved.

The Church's teachings on the death penalty, just war, abortion and euthansia all derive from the consistent belief that every human life is sacred and deserving of dignity. Even scum like Tookie.

Posted by: bplus at December 14, 2005 11:27 AM

bplus: Yo admitt that Catholic doctine permits thedeath penalty when it is the "ONLY possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor"

Yes, since Tookie can still engage in gang activities which kill people while he is in prison, kiling him is the ONLY possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.

So, as I said, thanks for agreeing with the State of California.

Posted by: Bob at December 14, 2005 11:29 AM

Williams was a hero to the Gulfstream V left. Next spring he would have had his pick of a dozen college commerence addresses to accept. Liberals would never have stopped lobbying to have him released. Because of them he was a continuing threat to society.

Posted by: David at December 14, 2005 11:36 AM

Bob,

There are other means than the death penalty. Society can be protected from Tookie and his kind by life inprisonment in solitary confinement without possibility of parole. Again, the Catechism does not require perfect protection, only effective protection.

However, it is nice to see that Conservative Catholics are as good at finding loopholes in Church doctrine as Liberal Catholic who wants to use condoms.

Each opposing wing of the Church ignores or explains away the parts it doesn't like.

Posted by: bplus at December 14, 2005 11:41 AM

bplus:

Yes, but your solution is anti-human. It inflicts psychoses on the inmates so treated. It's cruel and inhumane, which the Constitution bars, while it allows execution.

Posted by: oj at December 14, 2005 11:54 AM

Bob:

The trick is they don't care about anybody once they're in prison.

Posted by: oj at December 14, 2005 12:07 PM

bplus: I'm not Catholic, not even Christian. In fact, I think few commnters here are Catholics.

OJ is right, you are inhumane when you advocate solitary confnement for life. What about the phrase in #2267 regarding "conformity to the dignity of the human person". Lifetime solitary is more in conformity to the dignity of the human person than the form of execution here? I don't think so.

Posted by: Bob at December 14, 2005 12:23 PM
Gen 9:5 And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man. 6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

This is scripture, and it's good enough for me.

Posted by: Ptah at December 14, 2005 12:33 PM

it's funny the left doesn't like the death penalty, it's so darwinian. of course i think their real complaint is one of scale and efficiency, you are never going to get to 100M+ doing it onesie twosie.

Posted by: piltdown whale at December 14, 2005 12:41 PM

Bob,

You take that statement out of context. Here it is in its entirety:

non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person

The Catechism is declaring that NON-LETHAL means are the punishments that conform to the dignity of the human person, and these are the one authorities should limit themselves to.

OJ, It is also equally inhumane to sit on death row for an indefinite duration. It isn't the execution itself that is the torture (lethal injection is relatively painless), it's the waiting for the execution.

Ptah, what other OT death penalties are good enough for you?

Posted by: bplus at December 14, 2005 1:09 PM

bplus: Inhumane to keep people on death row? Agreed, but ask yourself why it takes so long.

Posted by: Bob at December 14, 2005 1:43 PM

bplus - Unfortunately, the revised Catechism is dishonest if one takes "the traditional teaching of the Church" to refer to limiting the death penalty to cases when there is no alternative that prevents further crime, rather than just to not excluding the death penalty. In fact, the traditional teaching of the Church is that the death penalty is morally superior to life imprisonment. The opposition to the death penalty is a recent innovation.

The artfully chosen language of the Catechism -- subject to two interpretations, one of which is a strong condemnation of the death penalty and the other of which is honest -- is unfortunately typical of too many bishops these days.

Posted by: pj at December 14, 2005 2:40 PM

bplus:

Ever read about the violence of the Bloods and Crips within the prison population?

Posted by: oj at December 14, 2005 3:10 PM

bplus:

Yes, those who pretend to care about the convict by stretching out his appeals are indeed torturing him.

Posted by: oj at December 14, 2005 3:26 PM

Bob and OJ,

The reason stays on death row take so long is the desire not to execute an innocent man. English Common Law and American jurisprudence (the foundation of the cultural Anglosphere) are based on the premise that it is better for 1,000 guilty men to go free than to have 1 innocent man be condemned. Recent exhonerations of former death row inmates by use of DNA evidence to prove their innocence drives home this point. These exhonerations raise the ugly certainty that innocent men have been executed in the past. The death penalty is an absolute punishment from which no restitution is possible for wrongful condemnation. Therefore there is a need for absolute certainty of guilt. Our at least as absolutely certain as fallible humans and their legal system can be. Hence the long delays due to death row appeals.

OJ, The prison violence argument argues for isolation, not the death penalty.

PJ, the catechism bears the imprimature of the Holy See and therefore cannot be "dishonest". It is not the product of wishy-washy, liberal bishops, but is the core teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. I know of no instance where the Church has taught that death was morally superior to life in prison, can you provide a citation? The authors of the catechism would claim (as they have done so many times in the past on so many issues) that they are clarifying the Church's position while leaving its eternal truths unchanged. And a close reading does show a consistency. If the RCC allowed or approved of the death penalty in the past, it is only because there were no "possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor" (there being no penal system in the middle ages).

Now since this is not an infallible doctrine you are free to dissent from this teaching, using the principle of the "Primacy of the Informed Conscience" as stated in the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas Aquinas, but you would be no different than a Liberal Catholic dissenting from RCC teaching on birth control.

Posted by: bplus at December 14, 2005 4:17 PM

bplus:

That's just not true. They know they're guilty. They exploit the system at the behest of activists who exploit them in turn.

Posted by: oj at December 14, 2005 4:37 PM

OJ,

Then I guess there has never been any DNA exhonerations of death row inmates.

Posted by: bplus at December 14, 2005 4:43 PM

Sure there have, just not a significant number.

Posted by: oj at December 14, 2005 5:41 PM

If human life is sacred, then 1 is a significant number.

Posted by: bplus at December 14, 2005 5:50 PM

It's not. God is sacred. He told us what to do with murderers. He doesn't expect us to get it 100% right though.

Posted by: oj at December 14, 2005 6:05 PM

If human life is not sacred then murder is not a sin and abortion is permissible. If human life is not sacred, there is no pro-life argument in the first place.

Posted by: bplus at December 14, 2005 6:20 PM

Murder is a sin because God says it is. Accidentally killing an innocent man isn't murder -- it's eminently human. Intentionally killing an innocent child is murder -- it's anti-human.

Posted by: oj at December 14, 2005 6:31 PM

It isn't an accident if the system that results in the death of innocent men can be stopped.

Though I agree with you about the murder of innocent children, ironically the OT does not. Those who caused a woman to lose her child (on purpose or by accident) were to pay a fine, not be punished with death like a murderer.

Frankly, if the current conservative and evangelical allies of the RCC ever took a close look at the Catechism they would be apalled at how liberal the Church is on most social issues. But liberal or not, what the RCC cannot be accused of inconsistency. It applies its pro-life doctrine to all - convicted murderers as well as innocent children. It is a blanket and universal application without exceptions.

Posted by: bplus at December 14, 2005 6:58 PM

how many innocent people have been killed because a guilty killer was let out by mistake ? the money spent keeping one killer on death row would save 1000 africans a year, or don't they count ?

Posted by: a+ at December 14, 2005 7:24 PM

How many are killed because we keep them alive in jail?

Posted by: oj at December 14, 2005 7:53 PM

lots.

Posted by: a+ at December 14, 2005 8:54 PM
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