Monday, January 13, 2003
More on the Gov. Ryan and the death penalty: OpinionJournal.com's James Taranto had some apt words to say about the decision to clear off Illinois' death row.
It's an act of stunning moral vanity. Ryan claims he's concerned that innocent people may have been on death row, and the Associated Press quotes him as saying that capital punishment is "arbitrary and capricious, and therefore immoral." But what's more arbitrary and capricious than sparing every convict on death row, even those about whose guilt there is no doubt? Ryan's successor, Democrat Rod Blagojevich, calls Ryan's act "a big mistake." He tells Reuters: "A blanket anything is usually wrong. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. We're talking about people who committed murder."
Even if there were innocents on death row, Ryan has done them no favor. Except for four inmates who got full pardons (Ryan said police had beaten and tortured them into making full confessions), all the erstwhile death-row denizens merely had their sentences reduced to life in prison. This means, as a USA Today editorial notes, that they "will lose access to the mandatory legal review of their sentences and to the legal experts who provide them extraordinary appellate help." USA Today seems to approve of this, but if there really are innocent people behind bars, why would anyone want to deny them "extraordinary appellate help"?
Ryan's decision harms the innocent, helps the guilty and is a slap in the face of the victims of violent crime and the jurors who made the difficult decision to sentence defendants to death. But as Sam Evans, Debra Evans's widower, tells ProDeathPenalty.com, "He is not very concerned with individuals, just with issues."
Ryan's decision wasn't about doing what is right, but creating some other legacy than corruption.