Snuffing The Gangs

I remain ambivalent about the death penalty on a number of levels, not least the question of under what circumstances a Catholic can support it. (On the other hand, as I’ve said before, the more I listen to opponents of the death penalty, the more I tend to lean towards supporting it). In particular, I’m not sure the death penalty is worth the economic cost, nor that it can be applied consistently enough in the case of ordinary homicides – armed robberies, individual feuds, domestic violence – to make the necessary deterrent effect worth the varied costs of the penalty. Anyway, more on that another day.
Because the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams seems to me to fall on the pro-execution side of an important line. What is significant about Williams’ case is that he was responsible for being one of the founders of the vicious street gang the Crips; Williams set in motion an organization that specializes in preying on the weak and the vulnerable and corrupting the young and the impressionable. The case for the death penalty is at its strongest in dealing with organized crime – whether terrorists, street gangs, the KKK, the Mafia or the drug cartels – both because civilized society must use the means at its disposal to defend itself, and because the goal of deterrence is much more directly served when directed not at the general criminal population but at an organization whose members may know the defendant and who have reason to expect that they could be next.