<< WSJ on Liu Nomination | Main | Earned Distrust >>

April 19


Fifteen years ago at about this hour, Timothy McVeigh  detonated a bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, 19 of them under the age of six.

Asked later about his reasons, McVeigh said,  "I didn't define the rules of engagement in this conflict. The rules, if not written down, are defined by the aggressor. It was brutal, no holds barred. Women and kids were killed at Waco and Ruby Ridge. You put back in [the government's] faces exactly what they're giving out."  McVeigh did express regret about the death of the 19 young children, but only because it was "a PR nightmare," as he said in a later interview.  Otherwise, they were "collateral damage."

McVeigh was executed for his crime slightly more than six years after he committed it, on June 11, 2001.  According to Gallup, 81% of the public approved of the execution.  A consensus to that extent is essentially unheard of on any significant issue in public life.

My only question is:  What was the other 19% thinking?



Opposition to capital punishment can be principled, and it's a bit over the top to take one case and use it to bash people who may simply believe that the state shouldn't take the life of murderers. I don't share that view, but I think that there are many who are principled. And if you don't believe in capital punishment, then McVeigh shouldn't be executed.

I have an additional question. If six years is long enough to review a case that complex, why is it not long enough to review the typical capital case? It is in Virginia, but nowhere else.

There's an extra layer of review in state cases, and there are judges in the federal court system willing to thwart justice. That was unlikely to happen in the Tenth Circuit with a case like McVeigh's.

Speaking of executions years after the fact, Texas is slated to execute a murderer on the row for over 30 years.

federalist --

I appreciate the generous spirit of your comment, but I cannot share it.

1. "... if you don't believe in capital punishment, then McVeigh shouldn't be executed."

If you can seriously review the facts of the McVeigh case and NOT believe in capital punishment, you're just flat-out crazy. The notion that a jail sentence, no matter what its length, is "justice" in that case is so far off the wall that no responsible adult could share it. The sole exception to that would be a total pacifist, but total pacifism, I have come to believe, is not really principled, because it turns out to mean that someone else has to fight and risk his life for your freedom. Pacifism may be pure, and it may be in good faith, but adults to not have the luxury of palming off on others the costs of what benefits them.

2. "...it's a bit over the top to take one case and use it to bash people who may simply believe that the state shouldn't take the life of murderers."

The reason it's just to take one case to attack abolitionism is that abolitionism is the belief that capital punishment should NEVER be used. By definition, that theory can be debunked by a single case in which it's justified.

A blithe dismissal to the effect--I don't believe in capital punishment--is too easy and simplistic. Justice demands more. We as a people must identify crimes and criminals that are so heinous, so beyond the pale, that the ultimate penalty is the ONLY sentence that is commensurate with the crime.

Certainly, the McVeigh case is one of those and I, for one, do not admire those "principled" individuals who naively and facilely fail to undertake what justice demands.

There are people who simply think that the state should be without the power to execute people who commit murder. Like I said, I don't share that view, but I don't think it's a crazy one either. The Catholic Church's position doesn't strike me as crazy (erroneous, but not crazy). Moreover, capital punishment is not just there for McVeigh. It's certainly a principled argument to make that there simply aren't enough McVeighs in a nation of 300 million.

In my view, we should save our fire for cynics like Dieter who ply an eager press with misleading information. Or defense attorneys who, throwing a Hail Mary, decide to smear victims or third parties. We should hold up those abolitionists who act as if our society is somehow this awful place because a few dozen murderers per year are execution to ridicule. But I'd leave the people who simply don't believe in capital punishment alone.

Leave a comment

Monthly Archives