PERSON OF THE WEEK - Dec. 11-17, 2005
I know that it seems like old news by now (at least to us news junkies), but it was just a few days ago that Crips founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed. Now, I haven't lived very long compared to some people, but I will say that the lead up to Mr. Williams execution as the biggest debate on the death penalty that I have witnessed in my lifetime.
Based on the previous paragraph, you're probably wondering why I didn't award Person of the Week to Tookie Williams. Well, not to be cynical, but Williams himself played a very small role in this controversy. The actual news makers were all of the people who were protesting his execution (Snoop Dogg, Mike Farell, Jesse Jackson, etc.). So, why isn't one of theme Person of the Week? Two words, they lost. The man who had the greatest impact was the man who actually controlled the fate of Tookie Williams, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Now, we could debate the merits of the death penalty all day, but you have to admit that it took guts to reject Williams' appeal for clemency. It would have been very easy (not to mention politically expedient) to bow to the whims of anti-death penalty crowd. After all, California is not exactly a red state, so I doubt that public support for the death penalty is very strong. But Arnold isn't driven by polls, he did what he thought was right.
Personally, I agree with the decision. I do not believe in the reduction of sentences based on personal turnarounds while in prison. In my book; 20 years means 20 years, life means life, and death means death. Now, we could argue about the merits of the death penalty until the cows come home, but the fact remains that the death penalty is in force in California. The Governor should have a respect for the law, meaning that clemency should only be granted based on the belief that a person is innocent, never on a governor's personal beliefs. If a governor pardons grants clemency to a criminal based on personal opposition to the death penalty. That (in my mind) would be a violation of separation of powers.
So for showing a tremendous amount of chutzpah in refusing to pardon Tookie Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger is ConservaGlobe's Person of the Week!
For the record, I do not believe that governors or presidents should have the right to grant clemency unless they can cite evidence of judicial misconduct. Corrupt politicians could use pardons to get their cronies out of jail, essentially ensuring that any friend of the governor/president is above the law.