THE execution of Robert Alton Harris in the California gas chamber early April 21 marks a watershed in the political and legal struggle over capital punishment in America.
It is not only the first state-sanctioned death in California in 25 years but underscores the expanding use of society's ultimate punishment outside the South.
The state is the fourth this year, along with Arizona, Delaware, and Wyoming, to carry out the death penalty for the first time since the US Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1976.
The execution has taken on added significance because of California's position in the national ethos as a trend-setter.
The state …