Wyoming State Senators Use Unique Logic to Justify Capital Punishment

The Wyoming state senate today voted down a bill that would have ended capital punishment in that state. Some of the state senators voting against the repeal had some interesting arguments in favor of capital punishment,

Sen. Lynn Hutchings, R-Cheyenne, argued that without the death penalty, Jesus Christ would not have been able to die to absolve the sins of mankind, and therefore capital punishment should be maintained.

“The greatest man who ever lived died via the death penalty for you and me,” she said. “I’m grateful to him for our future hope because of this. Governments were instituted to execute justice. If it wasn’t for Jesus dying via the death penalty, we would all have no hope.”

Death Penalty Rats Try to Hide in Shadows

Opponents of capital punishment in the United States have had some success in pressuring the companies that make the drugs used in lethal injections.

Just this week, Oklahoma had to delay two executions because of a shortage of pentobarbital, which it uses in executions. The manufacturer of pentobarbital, Netherlands-based Lundbeck, banned the sale of the drug for use in executions after a public outcry in that country.

In response, some states that still allow capital punishment are considering laws that would prevent disclosure of the drugs used in lethal injections and the names of suppliers who provide those drugs. The Alabama House, for example, approved a bill that would amend the state’s capital punishment statue to include the following,

The name, address, qualifications, and other identifying information of any person or entity that manufactures, compounds, prescribes, dispenses, supplies, or administers the drugs or supplies utilized in an execution shall be confidential, shall not be subject to disclosure, and shall not be admissible as evidence or discoverable in any action of any kind in any court or before any tribunal, board, agency, or person. The same confidentiality and protections shall also apply to any person who participates in an execution or performs any ancillary function related to an execution and shall include information contained in any departmental records, including electronic records, that would identify the person.

Gotta keep that death machine moving any way they can.

Three Troubling Death Penalty Cases Involving Bogus Evidence

In the course of a week earlier this month, two news stories highlighted the continuing problems with the way in which people are sent to death row in this country.

In Virginia, Earl Washington Jr. won $2.28 million from the estate of the police officer whom Washington lawyers claimed help fabricate a false confession that put Washington on death row.

Washington spent 18 years on death row for rape and murder. He was pardoned in 2000 after new DNA testing implicated a convicted rapist in the murder.

There’s just one problem — not only did Washington confess to the murder, but his confession contained details about the murder that only the murdered and the police knew. Since DNA testing indicated that Washington wasn’t the murderer, the obvious conclusion is that the details in Washington’s confession came from Detective Curtis Reese Wilmore, who interrogated Washington and obtained his confession.

Washington is mildly retarded and would have been highly susceptible to manipulation and feeding of details about the murder by police.

Meanwhile, the Innocence Project released an extremely disturbing picture of death row convictions of arson in Texas. The report looked at the case of two men who were sentenced to death as a result of arson convictions — Cameron Willingham and Ernest Willis.

In both cases, the Innocence Project found that testimony by arson “experts” at trial was riddled with errors. At Willis’ trial, a prosecution expert actually testified that fires were rarely caused accidentally by cigarettes, even though that is the leading cause of fire deaths in the United States.

In both Willingham and Willis’ trial, the Innocence Project claims, arson experts testified that a number of indicators led to the conclusion that the fire had to be arson, but the experts in each case grossly misinterpreted those indicators.

Willis spent almost 17 years on death row before he was pardoned in 2004. Willingham was executed in 2004.

The scariest part of the Innocence Project’s report is the laughable qualifications to be an arson “expert” in Texas. According to the New York Times,

Many arson investigators were self-taught and “inept,” the report said, adding: “There is no crime other than homicide by arson for which a person can be sent to death row based on the unsupported opinion of someone who received all his training ‘on the job.'”

Unbelievable, but sadly fairly routine. CSI is the fiction; Barney Fife is too often the reality.


Faulty testimony sent 2 to death row, panel finds. Ralph Blumenthal, New York Times, May 3, 2006.

Jury: Investigator must pay ex-death row inmate. Associated Press, May 5, 2006.

Ricky McGinn, the 2006 Version

The main problem with being opposed to capital punishment, as I am, is that there are a lot of organizations also opposed to capital punishment who seem to be run by Michael Dukakis liberals — the sort of people who will fight tooth and nail for convicted murderers but lack empathy and understanding of the horrors that crime victims go through that is what really drives support for capital punishment in my opinion.

One of the most idiotic things that comes out of this excessive focus on convicts is that anti-capital punishment groups tend to latch onto this person or that person whom they believe to have been wrongly executed or about to be executed, only for evidence to emerge that confirms the guilt of the individual. Moreover, the individuals such groups tend to latch onto are the sort of career criminals who are obviously guilty that it raises a serious question about just how gullible/rational some in the anti-capital punishment movement are.

Back in 2000, it was Ricky McGinn who was the star of the show. McGinn claimed he had not raped and murdered his 12-year-old niece step-daughter as a Texas jury had found, and opponents of capital punishment claimed DNA tests of pubic hairs and semen would prove this. Then Gov. George W. Bush granted a temporary 30 day reprieve for McGinn so such testing could be conducted. Rather than exonerate McGinn, of course, the testing showed that the killer was either McGinn or a very close maternal relative. McGinn was executed shortly afterward.

More recently, many anti-death penalty groups hopped on the Roger Coleman bandwagon. Coleman’s case is especially egregious. He was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of his 19-year-old sister-in-law, and executed in 1992.

Coleman was an immediate suspect in the murder because there was no forceable entry at the murder scene, Coleman had left his job at a nearby mine at the end of his shift shortly before the murder giving him time to carry out the killing, and the fact that Coleman had a previous conviction for the attempted rape of a teacher. At trial, evidence against him included pubic hairs found at the scene that were consistent with Coleman’s and DNA tests that established he was part of the 2 percent of men in the country who could have contributed the semen found at the scene.

To put it bluntly, there was an overwhelming amount of evidence that Coleman was the killer, and yet numerous anti-death penalty groups and activists got on the “Coleman was innocent” bandwagon. Many bought Coleman’s claim that he simply did not have time to go from his job to the victim’s house and commit the murder. For example, according to the New York Times,

In 1988, James C. McCloskey, a divinity school graduate and founder of Centurion Ministries Inc., a group based in Princeton, N.J., that advocates for inmates it considers innocent, took up Mr. Coleman’s case and spent four years reinvestigating it.

Mr. McCloskey concluded that Mr. Coleman did not have the time or motivation to commit the murder, raising questions about the jailhouse confession and the forensic evidence. He asserted that Mr. Coleman had been wearing clothing covered with coal dust but that no dust was found at the scene, and he offered evidence pointing to an alternative suspect.

As in McGinn’s case, the DNA test confirmed the state’s verdict — Coleman was guilty as hell.

The upshot is that, as I’ve predicted before, DNA testing is going to ultimately reinforce support for the death penalty rather than lead to some new widespread anti-death penalty movement. Capital punishment supporters will point to these results as well as the extensive DNA testing that occurs in cases today to argue that whatever problems there may have been with determining guilt in the past, that DNA evidence makes many verdicts as close to incontrovertible as any system is ever going to get.


Warner Orders DNA Testing In Case of Man Executed in ’92. Maria Glod and Michael Shear, Washington Post, January 6, 2006.

DNA Ties Man Executed in ’92 to the Murder He Denied. James Dao, New York Times, January 13, 2006.

Tony Robbins Speaks at Stan Tookie Williams Funeral

So the state of California went ahead an executed Stan Tookie Williams. As an opponent of capital punishment I wish that California would outlaw the death penalty, but at least Tookie’s death answered one pressing question — exactly what would I have to do to get motivational speaker Tony Robbins to show up and say a few words at my funeral.

Since Robbins showed up at Tookie’s funeral, apparently all I have to do is brutally five or six people. Robbins showed up at Tookie’s funeral saying that he was filled with “so much rage and so much anger” at the gang leader’s death. In fact, Tookie seems to have revolutionized Robbins’ approach to motivational speaking. Once upon a time, Robbins used firewalking gimmicks to motivate people. But today, Robbins says, we should look to convicted murderers for inspiration. Robbins interviewed Tookie shortly before the killer’s death, and Robbins’ website says of the interview (emphasis added),

During this two-hour interview, taped after Tony’s recent visit to San Quentin State Prison, learn how Mr. Williams committed his life to daily acts of redemption, leveraging his past to create a better future.
Mr. Williams’ story of personal growth will help guide and inspire you to work toward your own healthier and more successful future.

Here I thought affirmations and a positive mental attitude were the keys to success when really I should have been focused on killing my way to the top of an organized crime outfit.

Robbins’ next book? Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from Tony Montana.

Finally, in my previous piece on Williams I made much of the fact that he was the founder of the L.A. street gang the Crips, but that appears to have been untrue.

Both this Reuters article and this LA Weekly piece convincingly argue that Raymond Washington founded the crips, not Williams. Washington was killed in 1979.

Although Williams repeatedly claimed to have founded the Crips, the gang was apparently already well-established before Williams became involved with it. For example, CNN quotes LA County Sheriff’s Sgt. Wes McBride as saying,

The Crips were already well established when Tookie came on the scene. [That he created the Crips] is part of his mystique that his supporters are using to try to get him commuted. It gives him a stature as an anti-hero kind of person that has now turned his life around.

But it also goes to the heart of Williams’ claim to have truly changed. Why would someone who had truly reformed want to take credit for criminal activity he had no part of? On the one hand, Williams insists that he had nothing to do with all those murders he was convicted of, but on the other hand he openly takes credit for criminal activity he apparently had nothing to do with. That’s the mark of an insincere manipulator, not someone whose truly turned his back on his past.


Hundreds gather for Tookie Williams’ Funeral. Associated Press, December 20, 2005.

Williams claim of founding Crips is disputed. Reuters, December 12, 2005.

Tookie’s Mistaken Identity. Michael Krikorian, LA Weekly, June 2004.

California Should Kill Stan Williams or Abandon Capital Punishment Altogether

The manufactured controversy over California’s plans to kill Stan “Tookie” Williams demonstrates once again why all but 12 states and the District of Columbia returned to executing prisoners after the Supreme Court’s 1976 ruling authorizing its resumption. In a word, the anti-death penalty movement comes across as a bunch of loons.

Idiot actors like Jamie Foxx and rappers like Snoop Dogg glamorize a piece of trash like Williams, and don’t even get me started on the morons who nominated Williams for the Nobel Peace Prize (for the record, a Nobel Peace Prize nomination is about as easy to get as a nomination to appear in Who’s Who Among American High School Students, okay? How do you think a terrorist like Yasser Arafat won one?) I wonder if Foxx or Snoop even know the names of the four people Williams was convicted of murdering?

Meanwhile, what passes for the more serious side of the anti-death penalty movement keeps retreading bogus claims about racial disparities in the way the U.S. executes prisoners (since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, it is white murderers who have been executed disproportionately, not black killers).

Nonetheless, I still remain strongly opposed to capital punishment on general grounds, and it seems to me Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has two choices. He can either kill Williams and move on or he can grant him clemency and never authorize another execution.

In fact, if California cannot execute Williams, it should abolish the death penalty altogether. If capital punishment is morally permissible, Williams is the model of the type of person who should be executed. Williams not only killed those four people, he created a criminal organization — the Crips street gang — that was and is responsible for untold murders and other acts of violence.

Williams has more blood on his hand than any serial killer or other psychopath that California has killed. If California does not execute Williams, it has no business executing anyone else.