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November 29, 2005

More thoughtful commentary on clemency and the Williams case

Professor Austin Sarat, who has been doing forceful work on capital clemency lately (see here and here), today has a this FindLaw column on the Tookie Williams case.   Entitled "How Governor Schwarzenegger, and Those Who Seek Clemency for Stanley 'Tookie' Williams Both Get Our Legal and Constitutional Tradition Wrong," the piece emphasizes that clemency "is an exercise of mercy and grace."  Here's a selection from the piece's conclusion:

In sum, Governor Schwarzenegger's idea of the clemency standard — as meant only to correct miscarriages of justice — is simply wrong; it profoundly misunderstands our legal and constitutional traditions.  Schwarzenegger should not — and cannot — hide behind this mischaracterization of his clemency power.  The decision in the Williams case really is a test of the man, and what kind of governor he wishes to be.

It is about whether he will focus on charity or compassion, or worry about paying the steep political price — at a time when his own popularity is at a new low — that granting clemency to Stanley Williams will necessarily entail. The courageous decision is to spare Williams, not condemn him to death.  The question is whether Schwarzenegger has that courage — not whether Williams has "earned" or "deserved" clemency.

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November 29, 2005 at 07:38 AM | Permalink

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