Criminal Justice and Injustice
Pope John Paul II requested clemency for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, but the White House says it will proceed with the execution May 16. "The president has great respect for the pope and this is a tragic situation," says White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan. "The president also has deep compassion and sympathy for the 168 victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and their families." Vice President Dick Cheney went even further, saying granting the pope's request would be "a mistake." "I think if there was ever a man who deserves to be executed it's probably Timothy McVeigh," he said yesterday on Fox News Sunday.
Meanwhile, Attorney General John Ashcroft says McVeigh's probably won't be the last federal execution. "We'll remain open to arguments and information and make sure that our justice system is fair," he told The Washington Post. "But when we have people who have committed heinous crimes, and there's no question about their guilt, I don't know any reason to suspend the imposition of an appropriate penalty."
The pope's reason—"nations today have other means of efficiently repressing crime without definitely taking away the possibility of self-redemption"—doesn't resonate with Ashcroft, who calls the death penalty "a way to demonstrate the value of life."
The overwhelming majority of Americans apparently agree. A Reuters/Zogby poll found that while 22 percent of Americans oppose executions in all circumstances, 75 percent support its implementation in some instances. In fact, 21 percent want to see capital punishment extended to more crimes, such as rape and drug trafficking.
While Americans are generally united in support of capital punishment, much of the rest ...