There is scant research on the question surrounding the case of Stanley Tookie Williams, the quadruple killer and gang founder who is scheduled to be executed tomorrow in California’s San Quentin prison: Do you believe that inmates have the capacity to reform? The San Francisco Chronicle says that advocates on both sides of the death penalty issue believe that Californians are having their most introspective public discussion in decades about whether the state should execute people. Two-thirds of Californians support the death penalty. Next month, legisators will hold a hearing on a bill to halt executions until January 2009, a year after a state commission on the fair administration of justice’s report on capital punishment is supposed to be done.
California is on track to execute three people in the next two months, a sharp jump for a state that has put to death just 11 people in the past 13 years. Scheduled to be executed Jan. 17 is 75-year-old Clarence Ray Allen, who is legally blind, diabetic and uses a wheelchair. Allen would be the oldest person executed in the United States since the death penalty was restored in 1977. “When there is an execution every 18 months or two years, people have been able to go back into their holes and not think about it for while,” said Elisabeth Semel, a University of California at Berkeley law professor and director of the Death Penalty Clinic at Boalt Hall, which advocates for death row inmates. Semel said some advocates are worried that by March, Californians will be “Texified” — so numb to state-sponsored killing that the anti-death-penalty movement withers. Texas is the nation’s leader in executions, having put 355 inmates to death since 1977.