You know ... I'm actually beginning to feel sorry that Ryan is leaving office. Which I never ever EVER thought I'd say about a Republican. But the plain fact is that I don't think we could have gotten these decisions on the death penalty out of a Democrat, somehow. It would have been ... suspect. Coming from a formerly pro-death-penalty Republican somehow makes them more politically manageable.
If he does anything, I think he'll go for a blanket commutation. Reviewing all of the death sentences that took place before the new guidelines took effect will simply be far too time consuming, even if he reviews one per day from now until the end of his term. (That assumes it's possible to get through the transcripts and evidence and whatever else comes with any case in only one day.) Frankly, it's also going to be too grim. Can you imagine what it would be like to review some of the details of these murders, day after day after day? I suspect either it will be a blanket commutation or nothing at all, because that's going to be the only way to spare his sanity.
Of course, he's aided by the fact that he's a lame-duck. There may well be political fallout, but the legislature has no authority to overturn a commutation. (They might well give themselves that authority in reaction, although I think it would require an amendment to the state constitution.) And if he does this, I would be willing to bet that we'll see candidates running on the "every death sentence made by a jury will be carried out on my watch" platform.Posted by iain at March 05, 2002 12:16 PM