I too left with some new questions to think about.
Gov. Ryan spoke about the practical problems associated with carrying out a capital punishment system—problems like corrupt police officers forcing confessions, incompetent lawyers sleeping through trials, discrimination on the basis of skin color, mistakes in determining guilt and innocence.
These problems caught his eye in the Chicago Tribune. These problems made him examine the system. And these problems led him to commute the sentences of all 167 death row inmates in Illinois.
It seemed to me, then, that Gov. Ryan was opposed to the death penalty because of these practical problems. The issue for him was the just practice of a policy, not the moral fabric of the policy itself.
But perhaps not.
After the speech, he was asked, “What about the moral question of the death penalty?” Ryan responded that he was morally opposed to the death penalty.
I asked him if he thought retribution was a suitable justification for the death penalty (the Supreme Court does cite retribution as a justification for the death penalty). “No,” Ryan said, point-blank. “Retribution is wrong.”
I wonder how he had changed his opinion on that moral question. He used to believe that bad guys deserved to die. Now he believes not only that we cannot perfectly identify the bad guys in practice, but also that we cannot say bad guys deserve to die on moral grounds.
That’s not just a change of mind, that’s a change of heart.
How does that change of heart happen? And how can we bring it to the heart of America?
Friday, December 17, 2004
Gov. Ryan, part two