Friday, September 30, 2011

Jonah Goldberg, and my good faith on the death penalty

TreeHugger social media editor Chris Tackett—a friend from my Lawrence days—managed to bring my post about Jonah Goldberg and the death penalty to the attention of Goldberg himself. Goldberg tweeted a response:

And he's almost right! If you can reform death penalty jurisprudence so poor and black defendants get a good shake, or to solve any of the other huge problems that exist, it would be much more difficult to oppose the death penalty on fairness and justice grounds. The problem is: I don't think such reforms are likely—I wonder, really, if they're possible. It would take, among other things, a decision by legislatures to spend a lot more money on defense lawyers for poor defendants in capital cases—an act that would be politically tough in good times, never mind when states are tightening their belts. Abolition seems the best way to go to me.

Then again—addressing Goldberg's good faith question*—let me make myself plain: I'd still oppose the death penalty on moral grounds even if it were pristinely administered. But it's not pristinely administered, and short of abolition I would take reform. Right now, we're getting neither.

*An entirely reasonable question from one standpoint: I insulted Goldberg on Twitter recently. It was (I hope) uncharacteristically unkind and ungenerous of me. I have apologized, but to the extent I'm on his radar at all, I wouldn't blame him for holding a grudge.

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