Capital Brutality

By Tyrrell, R. Emmett, Jr. | The American Spectator, February 2001 | Go to article overview

Capital Brutality


Tyrrell, R. Emmett, Jr., The American Spectator


The end of the Age of Clinton is finally upon us, and in the last weeks of his adolescent presidency the Boy President did something that fetched my approval. He left the country. Unfortunately he returned. That presents Independent Counsel Robert Ray with a pretty predicament. To indict or not to indict, that is the predicament. Whatever the outcome, my guess is that Bill's reputation will continue to rot. Soon he will assume that role unique to America's legalistic society, celebrity outcast. Perhaps he and O.J. Simpson will open a golf club and name it for Fatty Arbuckle.

Actually, the Boy President did another thing of which I approve; though he did it for the wrong reasons, and he only went part way. In December he spared the life of the first person scheduled to be executed by the federal government in 37 years, Juan Raul Garza. As I say, Clinton only went part way. He ordered a sixmonth delay of Garza's execution. He should have spared his life completely and let him remain in the pen for the rest of his life. Garza is a cold-blooded murderer, but it is time to suspend capital punishment in America.

Clinton also got his reasoning wrong. He favored delaying the execution because studies, most one from the Justice Department, have found that minorities are sentenced to death disproportionately. That should surprise no one. Unfortunately, minorities commit a disproportionate number of crimes (usually against other minorities). The crimes are disproportionately more brutal. Naturally, minorities are disproportionately convicted of capital offenses. Yet it is time to end capital punishment.

The most compelling reason for ending state executions is that though the state has a right to defend its citizenry, capital punishment merely silences life. It neither dramatizes the horror of crime nor speaks out for life. It was once thought to do both, but not in our brutal society. Capital punishment actually adds to the increasing anger and morbidness of society. America in its entertainments, its public ethics, and its culture is entoiled with death. Capital punishment adds to the death.

To be sure, a government has a duty to defend its citizens against danger, but that has been accomplished with Garza behind bars. Killing him would merely make him a transient star in our witless celebrity culture. We already have too many unworthy celebrities-though not transient enough. Moreover, once executed Garza would have no chance to acknowledge his wrongs. Locked away for the rest of his life, given benefit of clergy, an ample library, plus time for solitary reflection, even a murderer such as Garza might attain contrition for his cruelty. …

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