Warner’s Decision, Many Agendas

The national press is watching Gov. Warner very closely in the waning days of his term as he tries to settle the Roger Keith Coleman DNA testing controversy. After reading this CNN story all the way through–and you have to read it all the way to end to get both sides of a very complicated case–there are many agendas at work. It looks to me like anti-death penalty advocates are holding this up, wanting to control who finally tests the material so as to maximize the potential that Coleman’s DNA will not be present in the tiny sample that exists.

I see why Warner hasn’t “made a decision.” He’s been negotiating to get it done in a seemingly adversarial environment not of his own making.

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6 responses to “Warner’s Decision, Many Agendas”

  1. Whether Coleman and others on America’s death rows actually did the crimes they were convicted of is irrelevant. The death penalty is abhorant, its use saying much more about us as a society than it ever could about the killers condemned to die. That the imposition of the death penalty could mean an innocent person might die only adds to the horror.

    For more, read Uncommon Sense

  2. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Yeah, without the death penalty, it would say that we as a society always value the life of the killer more than the life of the victim.

  3. Lucy Jones Avatar
    Lucy Jones

    I don’t know what the answer is on this case. Looks like you could just keep testing and testing until the end of time and never satisfy everyone. Of course, there’s always a little tiny chance you could have the wrong guy. It’s happened in other cases and folks were freed after many, many years.

    My personal question with the death penalty is if it’s a crime for a person to kill someone, why is it right for officials to kill someone? I know it saves money (in most cases) but what’s the moral reason?

    I am truly interested in your opinions.

  4. Will Vehrs Avatar
    Will Vehrs

    Lucy, each of us comes to our own, very personal place on this issue. Sometimes that place shifts as evidence emerges that innnocent men were convicted or a new level of depravity is reached by a killer who is surely guilty.

    I admit many problems with the death penalty, but in some cases I just do not see how society can do anything but carry out the ultimate sanction to express its outrage. In my own mind, if you let a child killer live, for example, you are placing the value of his life above that of an innocent child.

    Ten years after the child’s murder, we may see the killer, sentenced to life without parole, married in prison or the televised subject of a reality program. We’ll never see a documentary on the child’s life.

    I’m not trying to convert anybody or dispute anyone’s position on the death penalty, but I believe strongly in my position.

    It would be a lot easier for society to not convict “innocent” men if fewer men lived lives of crime. If you wonder why Coleman became a suspect, just look at his past record. Even with DNA testing, we may never know the final and definitive “truth.”

  5. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    Lucy, you asked a moral question. Moral and legal are different words.

    The legality of capital punishment goes as far back in history for every (okay somebody find a tribe in the Amazon or somewhere that never, ever had capital punishment but used banishment) civilization since 3000 BC.

    The legal tradition of capital punishment in Virgnia traces back through our roots in English and Roman civlizations.

    When we came into our own as American Civilization after 1776 the Founding Fathers debated what should be written in laws at every level of government.

    Capital crimes are mentioned in the Constitution, so the legal idea of capital punishment was emplaced from the top down. Every state made laws that applied capital punishment.

    The moral reasoning was twofold at least.
    1. The rationalism the Founders tried to apply for laws included the concept of the Social Contract (see Hobbes, Locke and Hume as influences – far more than Rousseau). A citizen could violate the Social Contract by commiting a crime so heinous that he lost his right to live as a citizen.
    2. The consensus culture for the Founders was Judeo-Christian (overwhelmingly Protestant) culture. The Bible has capital punishment in the OT. The Savior dies for sins of the world under capital punishment – as only the blood atones for sin. And in Romans (Chp 12 or 13) the discussion is about the right of the state to use the sword so Christians should be good citizens and obey rules and rulers.

    Finally, on the moral issue. The Hebrew word for the ‘kill’ in the Ten Commandments is ‘murder with malice’ not just kill – as in English.

    Capital punishment is legal and moral – and to be exercised with careful deliberation and sadness.

  6. Lucy Jones Avatar
    Lucy Jones

    Mr. Vehrs, Mr. Bowden,

    I appreciate your input very much. Something for me to chew on.


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