Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs

« Poll: Do You Support The Death Penalty? | Main | Bill Moyers Rewind: Ron Paul (2002) »

Dominique Green: In his own words

At 7:59 PM on October 26, 2004, Dominique Green, 30, was executed by lethal injection in Huntsville, Texas.

The following is an excerpt from an interview Dominique gave while on death row, where he spent 11 years before execution. In this clip, he discusses his home life, specifically his mother:

We invite you to respond by commenting below.


TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/mt4/mt-tb.cgi/747

Comments

It is presumptuous for the state to conduct a killing based upon the assumed "final wishes" of a victim. The state has no right & no responsibility to execute based upon the imagined motives of the victim. The state has no omniponent access to a victim's final wishes!
Are we denying that millionaires don't commit violent crimes? We are lying to ourselves when we avoid addressing privileged violence.
If we deny that we enact our vengeance disproportionately upon those who have few economic or social means to ensure adequate representation (which would, at the very least, ensure innocent people don't become fodder for a DA's political ambitions), we are no better than perpetrators of systemic injustice. If it is considered "liberal hogwash", so was every other fight against injustice in the long and violent history of menkind. I'd rather join with those whose understanding of justice has not ejected the New Testament for the Old. WHEN will we refuse to wallow in wilful ignorance by denying that innocent people are executed!
We lie to ourselves too much as it is; God forbid we encourage the State to enact our unconscious dramas of violence more than we already do!
When will we understand the death penalty is OUR drama (watch how we so love to drown ourselves in images to violence), and that is why we allow innocent people to be sacrificed.
If we cannot bring ourselves to show mercy to the innocent, we are hardly credible in our justifications for executing the guilty!

"When someone kills someone, you kill them." "Do you do then do the same to the rapist by raping them in return?" - Desmond Tutu.

"An eye for an eye, leaves the whole world blind." - Ghandi

It is wrong to excute people. Because you are against the principals of forgiveness. If you want some one to get excuted then that shows that you don't have enough strenght to forgive anyone for anything they had or will do.So bacically to tie this up 2 wrongs dont make it rght.Remember that before someone gets the death penalty again.

I truly do not know where to start, it's degrading for a country so far advance as the US to even suggest the idea of CAPITAL PUNISHMENT and furthermore, the death of innocent lives by the government. No one suggest that murderers go free or unpunish, if the government and its players come before people and declare that the US law is absolutly perfect in its entirety, then they can consider the death penalty however, if they cannot, then no one even the government should be allowed to take someone's life and that's final. Texas is not a place I would wish of going for this exact reason. As a black man, I feel like I can be put on death penalty in Texas for just about anything including speeding ticket. I usually tell my wife to never take my son or daugther to texas exactly for this reason. As a country, we all know how the government and its players have influenced the laws in the past. Case and point, SLAVERY; you would think that someone would learn from all of those bad decisions and establishes a checks and balances commitee to make sure the government do not get proven wrong again in the future but I can say that the evidence is there that it's a game for most of the players as oppose to real life for the rest of us. Once again the US government would be proven wrong in the future and it wont bother not one politician of today or the future.


It is wrong to execute people. it goes against the principle of forgiveness. It is based on revenge which is inconsistent with the best interests of civilization.
People who intentionally kill other people and do it with malice and forethought should be prevented from free community living.
There are too many people executed without sufficient evidence and there is no way to give them their life back if it turns out someone else committed the crime.

Cahill had some good points. I disagree with the death penalty and I think many people disagree with the death penalty because we see and hear of the death, it is painful to endure. What we do not see or hear about beforehand is the death of the victim and the cruelty they endured. We call the death penalty cruel, but what about the death. I think the question is is what do we do with people who inflict this kind of cruelty on individuals. Aren't they going against the constitution by inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on their victims.

It's a very complex issue. I agree also with his statement that the rich do not go to jail like the poor. It's a reality in our system, look at Paris Hilton. Has anyone else gotten the media attention she received because she was crying over her sentence and could not handle confinement and all that happened.

He is also right about lawyers. They really do help the more fortunate. They would not have fallen asleep if they had been defending Paris Hilton. Martha Stewart's lawyer did not sleep throughout her trial.

Another injustice and lack of the populace being uninformed is that street crime costs this country far far less than white collar crime. This is gone unnoticed because street crime is depicted as far more cruel.

Talk about cruelty, how are prisoners treated by other prisoners in jail. They learn more cruelty while incarcerated.

So, I don't know what the answer is as there as so mamy facets to this problem that needs to be considered. Racism, classism, sexism, childism, the list is really endless. I don't know what the answer is, but I think the question is is what do we do with someone who is violent and who is a harm to our society, execute him/her, life long confinement, rehabilitation that may or may not work. We forget that by letting someone out, we sometimes not only deliver justice, but we deliver this violent person back out into society. I do feel compassion for these criminals, but I don't know if letting them out to continue to harm others is the answer. We always feel the way we do when someone is put to death, but what about when we hear of someone who was let out and continues to inflict harm on society. Then we blame the criminal justice system for letting them out. So, I don't know.

One option might be to look at rehabilitation programs that have worked, again I don't know.

As Americans we have to look at other countries or society that accept the death penalty and ask what does this say about us. Thomas Cahill mentioned countries such as Iran, Saudia Arabia, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, and China, all countries that we oppose on so many other aspects. That is the company that we are in.

Also, the obvious bias towards race and class of death row inmates has a very close relationship to KKK justification of lynching.

What makes the story of Dominique Green poignant is how the courts would seem to have become blase about individual lives and about questions of guilt and innocence. Dominique's story tells more about the business of justice than it does about the death penalty.

As someone who has worked as a jail psychologist, I was struck by the fact that these discussions about the death penalty mostly focus on people who may have been falsely accused and convicted, but seldom, if ever, look at some of the most wanton of perpetrators. Having spent some of my working time in maximum security at the old Bernalillo County Detention Center in Albuquerque, I can assure that there are convicts who are truly remorseless. I have had the experience of someone conveying the message that they could as soon kill me as talk to me, all with a look.

The fact that people like this exist does not negate what Dominique Green suffered in his relatively short life. What it does suggest, at least to me, is that the question of the death penalty is far more complex than it initially appears. This is more a question of how you teach compassion to those who are cold-blooded, how you teach judges and attorneys to take their jobs seriously every moment that they practice, and finally how do you treat those individuals who make no effort to resist their savage impulses and who are at risk of re-offending.

I live in Texas. Just recently, Presiding Judge, Sharon Keller, of the Court of Criminal Appeals refused to accept an appeal, presented at 5:20, from Michael Richard, who would be executed in less than one hour. She said, "We close at 5:00" The US Supreme Court had earlier in the day instituted a de facto moratorium on executions until they could rule on a lethal injection Cruel and Unusual Punishment appeal. This same Texas court has overturned death penalty convictions at a rate of 3% since 1990. The Federal 5th. Circuit Court, serving the south, has not offered a much better rate, overturning convictions at 10%. Prior to 1990 the Texas CCA overturned convictions at a rate of 33% and the Fifth Circuit at 50%. The rate in the rest of the US was 67%. At the same time, prior to 1990, according to last statements of those executed, not one of them declared that they were innocent. Since that time, nearly 20% of those on the gurney, their death bed, have declared their innocence, moments before meeting their maker. Those courts have refused to perform their duty, and innocent prisoners have died as a result. Many mistakes have been made in those trials, and the courts have ignored them. The Fed. Govt. has passed bills granting only one appeal. If the appeals attorney does not do a superman's job, someone dies. They do not call the Texas CCA a "Killer Court" for nothing.

There are SOME people: who have used up the right to live among the decent.

Some have taken a child's life --harmed society in such ways as to not deserve to reap any benefit of life.

Had a rotten chldhood? How does rape --murder of a woman -child "fix" that? --Who said you're 'special' --it's OK to harm others --don't get help to repair yourself?

I have thought those since I was a teen. Society does NOT Owe anyone the Right to keep on living, for those who commit certain harm.

I kept right on thinking that way --until I learned about things in Texas --where the guy doing an imitation of a leader, signed orders to execute people who weren't even guilty --didn't have PROPER/
any legal aide --white skin --money.

When that guy, "governor" ordered more people killed than anyone in history: I knew the US would be in BIG trouble when the Peter Principle kicked in and the no-long supreme court inserted him into the Oval Office.

WHY is anyone surprised he ordered invasion of a country incapable of invading this one. --Lobbed the NATION'S Guard OUT of the country --destroyed US Treasury, military, world's respect, and thousands of families???

But we still have the Right NOT to tolerate certain low-life scum --and NOT for
'deterent' reasons, either.

But I strongly object to executing ONLY the black --the poor --the ill-lawyered.

EVERYONE --including the imitation leader, should object to that. WE are supposed to have Fairness in this country.

I watched a low-life: cause the death of a neighbor, his mother --only watched because NOBODY listened to me --not police, Meals on Wheels, neighbors, Police Chief, detectives --nobody. He wasn't even questioned when she died --of starvation. The scum: white and avowed nazi.

Plus:
WHEN do those on the Other side --whine about the pain caused by the low-lifes?

WHEN do they see to it --that 8 -9 -10 year olds GET educated about HOW to parent?


There are SOME people: who have used up the right to live among the decent.

Some have taken a child's life --harmed society in such ways as to not deserve to reap any benefit of life.

Had a rotten chldhood? How does rape --murder of a woman -child "fix" that? --Who said you're 'special' --it's OK to harm others --don't get help to repair yourself?

I have thought those since I was a teen. Society does NOT Owe anyone the Right to keep on living, for those who commit certain harm.

I kept right on thinking that way --until I learned about things in Texas --where the guy doing an imitation of a leader, signed orders to kill people who weren't even guilty --didn't have PROPER/any legal aide --white skin --money.

When that guy, "governor" ordered more people killed than anyone in history: I knew the US would be in BIG trouble when the Peter Principle kicked in and the no-long supreme court inserted him into the Oval Office.

WHY is anyone surprised he ordered invasion of a country incapable of invading this one. --Lobbed the NATION'S Guard OUT of the country --destroyed US Treasury, military, world's respect, and thousands of families???

But we still have the Right NOT to tolerate certain low-life scum --and NOT for
'deterent' reasons, either.

But I strongly object to executing ONLY the black --the poor --the ill-lawyered.

EVERYONE --including the imitation leader, should object to that. WE are supposed to have Fairness in this country.

I watched a low-life: cause the death of a neighbor, his mother --only watched because NOBODY listened to me --not police, Meals on Wheels, neighbors, Police Chief, detectives --nobody. He wasn't even questioned when she died --of starvation. The scum: white and avowed nazi.

Plus:
WHEN do those on the Other side --whine about the pain caused by the low-lifes?

WHEN do they see to it --that 8 -9 -10 year olds GET educated about HOW to parent?


It ceases to amaze me that the story of defence lawyers napping during trials of savage murderers, such as Cahill stated, and that the judge during these trials don't ask the lawyers to 'PLEASE WAKE UP. Seems the excuse of sleeping lawyers has been used many times in cases of the death penalty. Also Cahil repeated numerous times how awful "we" were and still are against the poor. I beg to differ. There are many positive choices for peope to make these days. What happened 200 years ago is no reflection on American's today.

In some states, on the death certificates of executed criminals, the Cause of Death is listed as "Homicide," making all citizens of those states murderers, thereby nullifying the justification for capital punishment.


Killing a killer creates only another killing killer.

=
MJA

Looking into the eyes of Dominic, tears came to my eyes and shame of what this nation has become. Across the nation poor black communities have become victims of poverty, lack of eduction and opportunity to succeed. Our government has not only abandon any support services but left these populations to fend for themselves with very few resources, while the corporate world gobbles up billions upon billions of dollars. African Americans are facing a quiet genocide. Their life expectancy is low, their medical care practically non existent an millions are being imprisoned. We are 37th in the world in life expectancy. Americans have become so lacking in empathy, compassion and morality that we will sit by passively and allow an entire group of AMERICANS be exterminated in a variety of ways. Can we really call ourselves a civilized nation? Can any of us call ourselves people of any religion that honors humanity? I don't think so.

also, anyone who has studied history extensively will know that the effects of past inequalities are carrying over TO THIS DAY. why are blacks in urban cities poor? industries fled (remember, the industrial revolution, which was concentrated in urban areas - now we got dotcom companies in suburbs). why did blacks come to the cities? WWII, and the shortage of male white labor it created, opened up the gates to minorities and women. what were blacks doing before moving to cities? sharecropping in the south. why were they sharecropping? because even though the civil war abolished slavery, the american economy was still heavily reliant on cotton from the south - and cotton is a labor-intensive crop. sharecropping and vagrancy laws were a way to keep black labor in the south for cheap.

also: crime is caused by poverty. people in general do not have natural tendencies toward crime or habits that cause poverty. example: every single european immigrant group was perceived as crime problems because crime levels were high in those communities. hence, there used to be a jewish prostitution and burglary problem. jewish gangs used to dominate new york. think i'm making this up? LOOK IT UP. same with italians, irish, poles, etc. i mean, the jews, who are so prosperous now, used to be derided for their broken families! what does all this tell you?

THINK HARD

Mr. Moyer, I watch your show regularly. Tonight however I only caught the second half of your interview with Mr. Thomas Cahill.

I've been taught that words have meaning so be careful what you say and what your write. Once uttered or written you can't take it back.

I resent Mr. Cahill's constant use of the word "we" during your interview.

I can't speak on behalf of anyone else but I know no one in my family ever owned slaves, or had input into forming our American Democracy.

Three of my grandparents escaped from Poland after WW I and prior to WW II. While in Poland they were farmers for the Polish/Russian Government. One was taken from his home at age 17 and forced to serve in the Russian Army. The two women were forced to work the fields. They weren’t asked, they were ordered.

My other grandparent left Ireland during the Great Potato Famine.

My point is this, one of the biggest and perhaps most important problem in America today is the use of words, written and spoken.

People make a habit of misusing or bluing the meaning of a word, from politicians to everyday people. “We all” misuse words. Then say, oh well that's not what I meant, you misunderstood me. Then say what you mean!

Perhaps Mr. Cahill's family owned slaves or had a vested interest in setting up our American Democracy, but rest assure my family did not. My family was no different than most who immigrated into this Country through Ellis Island legally. Both grandfathers’ worked in the Pennsylvania coal mines till they died of black lung. So when someone tells me, we have to undo the wrongs of the past, I suggest they speak on their behalf alone.

i don't know why people are calling moyers and cahill "liberals." such labels are so limited and 2-dimensional. as jon stewart said "even cartoon characters are more complex than left or right, they have up and down."
republicans are conservative on social issues but liberal on economics, democrats usually the opposite. please, this is a website with intelligent content, please do not use such inexact, confused, terms.

I took Mr. Cahill's comments about the dropping of the A Bomb and racism to mean that we were able to drop the bomb on Japan and not Germany because the Germans were "like" us compared to the Japanese. The same racism that allowed us to imprison the Japanese but not the Germans during the same war.

Enlightenment was result of European Elite sending the religious nuts out to convert the brown people.
The result 98% killed in NA, SA, Southern Africa. Only China and India was not conquered with violence

So Mr. Green history is quite wrong.

As far as Rome is concerned, most of its history is written by Christians. So you have look at with grain of salt. Why was Rome importing goods from China and India. Could it afford that luxury with conquering europe and middle east.

On Christmas day I heard a 1950s recording of Mort Sahl at the "Hungry i," San Francisco. He jokes about how some Christians are still in favor of the death penalty. He says they absolve themselves of any guilt feelings if some truly innocents are executed by the system, rationalizing that for the most part real murderers are executed. Yet these Christians are still upset about an innocent man who was hung on a cross.
All this discussion about Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Hamburg and Dresden--all this about "liberals"--makes me wonder how easy it is to rationalize our inhumanity ( e.g., "waterboarding") and disregard the facts that both the Germans and the Japanese were making overtures (via diplomats of other countries) to end the wars. It was our generals and leaders who preferred "unconditional surrender" that prolonged the wars and deaths of more innocents. Humane humans are a long way off in this "civilized" world. The European colonials thought they were civilizing the "savages" as millions were executed. We rationalized going to Iraq and killing thousands of innocent children.May God forgive us for not knowing what we do.

Any discussion of human cruelty in the U.S. is grossly incomplete unless it looks at the situation of women and children (and some men) in a society in which domestic violence is epidemic.

I was surprised and disappointed that in a sincere dialogue between two such thoughtful and compassionate individuals as Moyers and Cahill, the plight of women (who are executed in significant numbers in their homes, by those who supposedly love them) was never discussed.

in revisiting this episode I see more deeply the connection between cruelty and a lack of forgiveness. the connection between evil and not forgiving.

the cruelty of not forgiving ourselves or others and the many ways this cruelty can manifest itself through us in such circumstances.

how we can hand, from generation to generation, the inability to forgive and the cruelty that visits upon the generations. how deeply this disturbs the growth of the individual and so civilization within our society.

I personally am trying to break this cycle in my self and within my family.
I must remember what Desmond spoke of, that all situations can be transfigured and so people and so society itself.
I can lose my fear of forgiveness.
Then, I can start to live without choosing the cruelty I think is necessary because I was taught the world is so unforgiving.

I enjoyed the interview with Mr. Cahill...a knowledge of history is so essential for positive change to take place in societies.

Cahills' statement the the US dropping the A bomb on Japan showed racisim on the surface sounds good but when looked at deeper one realizes it is off the mark. The US was facing a loss of millions of lives on both sides if we invaded Japan and we were going to do just that. Harry Truman made the decision and the bombs dropped and history was changed. Raacisim was endimic in our society but it played a small roll in the "Bombs" use.

Harry Truman was one of the least racisist for the presidents of the pre WWII ear.

So now Jusme, "you have become DEATH, destroyer of worlds," (referring to previous poster's critique of Cahill).
Even Robert MacNamara (Sec. of Def. under Kennedy-Johnson, Bill remembers him) concedes (Fog of War -documentary)that he acted as a war criminal in the case of Japan and Vietnam
(though he relented on Vietnam). Hard judgment based upon speculation is unwise public policy. Who's to say when Japan may have surrendered or whether a "demonstration" of nuclear detonation may have become convincing.
In actuality you are sidestepping the issue of institutional blanket racism. The premise: It was not as bad for a million random Japanese to die as for an equal or lesser number of "our boys."
This abberation is not over. Witness how even we war protestors have fields of 4,000 crosses in our neighborhoods with little thought of the millions who have died because of the Iraq War (caused by wealth-serving and mistaken speculation).
Cahill starts with the truth of American crimes and theorizes about how we can do less harm in the future. You start with fantasy and bake Japanese like cookies.
When will Americans realize that "our toops" have become hostages to the arms industry and financial manipulation. My 4,000 crosses don't seem to be working.Maybe you could fly over in the Enola Gay and drop something out.

So now Jusme, "you have become DEATH, destroyer of worlds," (referring to previous poster's critique of Cahill).
Even Robert MacNamara (Sec. of Def. under Kennedy-Johnson, Bill remembers him) concedes (Fog of War -documentary)that he acted as a war criminal in the case of Japan and Vietnam
(though he relented on Vietnam). Hard judgment based upon speculation is unwise public policy. Who's to say when Japan may have surrendered or whether a "demonstration" of nuclear detonation may have become convincing.
In actuality you are sidestepping the issue of institutional blanket racism. The premise: It was not as bad for a million random Japanese to die as for an equal or lesser number of "our boys."
This abberation is not over. Witness how even we war protestors have fields of 4,000 crosses in our neighborhoods with little thought of the millions who have died because of the Iraq War (caused by wealth-serving and mistaken speculation).
Cahill starts with the truth of American crimes and theorizes about how we can do less harm in the future. You start with fantasy and bake Japanese like cookies.
When will Americans realize that "our toops" have become hostages to the arms industry and financial manipulation. My 4,000 crosses don't seem to be working.Maybe you could fly over in the Enola Gay and drop something out.

So now Jusme, "you have become DEATH, destroyer of worlds," (referring to previous poster's critique of Cahill).
Even Robert MacNamara (Sec. of Def. under Kennedy-Johnson, Bill remembers him) concedes (Fog of War -documentary)that he acted as a war criminal in the case of Japan and Vietnam
(though he relented on Vietnam). Hard judgment based upon speculation is unwise public policy. Who's to say when Japan may have surrendered or whether a "demonstration" of nuclear detonation may have become convincing.
In actuality you are sidestepping the issue of institutional blanket racism. The premise: It was not as bad for a million random Japanese to die as for an equal or lesser number of "our boys."
This abberation is not over. Witness how even we war protestors have fields of 4,000 crosses in our neighborhoods with little thought of the millions who have died because of the Iraq War (caused by wealth-serving and mistaken speculation).
Cahill starts with the truth of American crimes and theorizes about how we can do less harm in the future. You start with fantasy and bake Japanese like cookies.
When will Americans realize that "our toops" have become hostages to the arms industry and financial manipulation. My 4,000 crosses don't seem to be working.Maybe you could fly over in the Enola Gay and drop something out.

Dominique's mother had a mother too, but somehow I don't think it works that way. In Allentown Pa. in 2004 the student body president of Lehigh University robbed a bank. The getaway driver was a buddy unawares who waited in the car. I need not review the gentle disposition of this case in which someone could have been killed.
What I need say though is that Dom Green was in an analogous position to the getaway buddy, and yet our system had to kill him.
Is it who we associate with that condemns us? The robber I mentioned was in a panic about his sports gambling debts and was hyped up on violent video games. You often don't know what problems your friends have or what they might do.
Our friend George Bush unnecessarily invaded a foreign country and has killed several million in the process. Who knew!!!!!! Why, we accomplices might be brought to account at some point, maybe by a demented veteran or Blackwatter steroid sadist.
And now that Georgie is caught and is not repentant, and has a long rap sheet, won't the God (goblin) of the old testament rain on us with fire and brimstone? Oh wait, that is in the back of the Bible, the old part, and Jesus, like Bill Maher, has given us "new rules."
Kill away, then!

As with corporal punishment, it makes no sense to model hitting of children for the sake of discipline. From the Biblical roots we were to learn to "go forth and do likewise" as desciples of Christ.

Regarding executing people, it is also contradictory for a society to kill people in response to their killing of others. It simply models the behavior and keeps killing alive in people's minds as one choice which some will use in their times of fear, anger, and impulse. If we are peace-loving people who hate killing, why do we practice it?

Some of us become hardened by our experiences. But others are opened up by our experiences and become closer to what some call the true nature of god, or good, or our human potential. Dominique fell into this second category, I think. We can only wonder what he might have accomplished, had his repentance been recognized by the system and rewarded, as a deterrent to future crime. Instead, his life post-repentance can only be speculated about. How hypocritical that so many of us call our nation a Christian nation, but in this instance it wouldn't make any allowance for a human being to recognize his terrible behavior, repent, and then go out into the world and do some good for others.

Dominique's cause of death was, as Cahill would put it, death by hatred. Just as Bhutto's assassination today was death by hatred. And Voltaire might ask us the following: Is it really necessary for us to behave and act in this way, in order to achieve humanity's goals on earth?

How are desperate people who strap bombs onto themselves and blow up innocent bystanders in the name of religious extremism any worse than a society that alienates some its citizens, and then when those alienated citizens respond by committing crimes, executes them through acts of death by hatred?

How are innocent people who are being terrorized by "global stabilization professionals," as we now know innocent Iraqis were by a number of Blackwater "contractors," and so respond to that terrorism by killing and then stringing up these "terrorists" for all to see, worse than a society that tortures terrorists/criminals and people suspected of being associated with terrorists/criminals, even though there is no proof offered at all that the torture ultimately saves innocent lives?

Has our society-on-steroids lost its ability to see ourselves in the faces of our so-called enemies?

I believe that the primary purpose of the constitution is to limit the power of government. Why then, do we grant the State power to kill its own citizens?

Don't get me wrong; I'm not against personally killing dangerous criminals or defending oneself; hurt my kids and I'll fill you with enough lead to quality you as an EPA supersite. Then I'll proudly go to prison if necessary. But a government of the people has neither the competence nor the moral authority to kill its own citizens.

Rest assured all that believe in God, For judgement will come soon for the wicked that have not and will not repent. God please continue to bless us that have sinned and ask for foregiveness. There are allot of Dominique Green's in this wicked world who have been through allot and by God's grace have repented and been foregiving by him, who are we to say that they should be put to death? I for one "DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE DEATH PENALTY!" No man should have that devine power to take life, let God be the judge of such.

Just as (the show continuing past his comments on the Green Matter) I was beginning to like Cahill again, then up pops the A-bomb thing. How can Mr. Cahill, or anyone, differentiate (in terms of "racist" or "moral" or any other quality) between the killing of 100,000 Tokyo residents in one night of bombing by 334 U.S. bombers just 5 months before "Hiroshima" and "Nagasaki" and the killing in those two cities. Mr. Cahill cannot, I must hope and believe, have read the account of the Tokyo firestorm event by the french writer who was there ... Robert Guillian (Guillain, Robert, I Saw Tokyo Burning 1981).

Otherwise Cahill is required to explain how it was better that we more slowly fried, roasted, baked, and boiled to death those 100,000 citizens in one night than it was to deliver an instant or near-instant death to most of the 80,000 dead in Hiroshima. He is required to explain why it would have been better to lose up to 500,000 of our OWN citizens (and millions of Japanese) in an invasion of Japan, determined to fight on after repeated firebombings of cities in the fashion of Tokyo, when instead two planes and two bombs brought it all to an end in 3 days.

The controversy about Russia's entry into the Pacific fray at that time aside, there is little doubt that the specter of one aircraft and one bomb wiping out one city at time from an indefensible height (unlike the low flights of the incendiary bombers) was "a", if not "the", deciding factor.

Earlier attempts ("learning" experiences) at incendiary attacks in somewhat less fire-prone cities such as Hamburg and Dresden in Germany led to the fiery deaths of 50,000 and 30,000, and there were estimated to be 300,000 - 500,000 deaths from all such Allied efforts in Germany ... the same sort of range of casualties from bombing in Japan.

There can be no doubt that, had the war in Germany not begun to wind down by spring 1945, the first nuclear weapons would have been used to aid the Soviets and finish off Berlin, the bombing of which, despite huge numbers of attacks and bombs, was considered a failure. The Germans, after all, had begun the quest for such a weapon and there was NO doubt in anyone's mind that they would have used it. How could anyone think that after the savagery Germany showed in its prosecution of the war on Europe with indiscriminate bombing that the Allies would not have gladly traded the loss of thousands of aircraft and tens of thousands of crew for a one plane, one bomb, one city, one day scenario?

Japan could have been "held in place" until that effort ended the European war (if needed), being an isolated island. As it turned out, the Allies could turn their attention to and finish the war in Japan much sooner than expected.

How can it be that causing 120,000 nearly instant deaths by nuclear bombs ... ending WWII and saving 500,000 of our citizens from death (invasion of Japan) is "racist", when causing 200,000 (Tokyo + other Japanese cities) or more slower, painful deaths from a few nights of raining down firebombs, like gasoline, on them is not. I cannot fathom the twists in logic in a mind that can so think.

Thanks for this thoughtful conversation. America's application of capital punishment is receiving a critical examination, and Mr. Cahill's perspective is welcome.

In particular, Texas' zealous over-prosecution of death sentences has focused attention to problems seen in virtually every jurisdiction with the death penalty. Green's case is an example of someone who never represented the worst of the worst -- those for whom the death penalty is supposed to be reserved. Among post-Furman death sentences in Texas, executive clemency has simply failed to provide any check on prosecutors and courts.

His comments about the sin of the father is so visible among those on death row, as well as many others in prison. We must find some other way to resolve these problems of neglect and abuse -- to break the infliction upon future generations. Keep up the excellent work on the Journal.

A thought to consider~
While all agree that our justice system is unfair and biased on the basis of race and class, what I never hear anyone say is that because of it there are ONLY 2 million people in American prisons.
Fix the system by all means, but don't be shocked by the price tag for dealing with the tripling (or more) of our prison population.

Thank you for a most practical review on forgiveness- a must do for those heaven bound.Perhaps Cahill would agree that those who forgive help save civilization.

Our system of justice in the United States of America is excellent, but it is not perfect. Truly innocent people have in fact been convicted of capital crimes, and sentenced to death.

I think the argument about executing people who have truly done the things for which they were convicted distracts us from the real moral question. In order to maintain the death penalty for people who have actually done capital crimes, how many innocent people are we willing to execute? If you are a death penalty supporter, what is your answer? Are you willing to tolerate the execution of one innocent person in ten to which the death penalty is applied, one in a hundred, one in a thousand, or one in a million?

Unless and until there is no chance whatsoever that an innocent person will be subject to the death penalty, it seems to me the essential question is at what rate you are willing to accept the execution of innocent people? In the real world of imperfect justice, to support the death penalty is to accept the execution of some innocent people.

"Liberalism fails because it is inconsistent, and holds no one accountable for anything."

If this is true.

Conservatism fails because it imposes accountability only on those without the power and funds to work the system.

So Kenneth Lay is laid to rest with a clear record when his action financially devastated countless lives. Yet I never heard any of the "moral right" calling him the scumbag that he was.

The world is not black and white it is all shades of grey. We must stop living out of the two extremes and seek to operate from the middle ground. A first step should be to loose the labels and stop the name calling.

If we loose all compassion in this society it will not be worth living in

Thank you, Mr. Moyers, for presenting up this topic. And thanks for the chance to speak and share thoughts about it. The death penalty is an issue I've wrestled with for a long time.

Without compassion, as a society we are lost.

I believe that killing other people is wrong, just flat out. It is immoral. Doing it with legal sanction as a society doesn't make it right.

Studies show PTSD in executioners relating specifically to their role in the intentional deaths of others. The effect can be as devastating as any trauma inflicted upon an unsuspecting victim of violence. It seems counterintuitive since presumably an executioner has the support of the courts, their employer, their coworkers and their own choice in work, but it’s not as uncommon as it would seem. If that isn’t an endorsement of the intrinsic value of human life I don’t know what is.

There is also the problem of some people being, for a wide variety of reasons, hopelessly and irreparably violent. I've personally seen the exponentially destructive effect of severe violence on victims, their families, and on our society. We can’t afford to think just because severe violence hasn’t happened in one’s own circle or one’s own neighborhood it doesn’t affect each and every one of us. It takes only a few really violent people to cause tragedy and despair for hundreds, for decades.

I don't think we're framing the question properly.

The only reason we should have a death penalty at all is because we need it as a form of protection and regard, for a reasonably safe life for all of our citizens. Our brothers and sisters, our children, our neighbors, our coworkers, our future friends, our future enemies, our communities, ourselves. We have to take it out of the arena of morality and justice because quite frankly, there are no such measures applied fairly and which stand the tests of time and compassion.

At this point I do think we have to have a death penalty, much as I hate it. It should not be the sentence of a first offense, however heinous, but a last resort, a response to proven recidivism among the worst of our most violent criminals, those who cannot be fixed or taught or contained and every attempt to do so has failed. We cannot afford to indulge any notion that the death penalty is ever morally right or deserved, or is anything but tragic. At best, it would be the final chapter to a story that has ended badly but which has, thankfully, ended.

Society's goal for lawbreakers should be reformation. If our prisons held the hope of a new life for the criminal, even a murderer, I believe our society would be transformed. Even if we could not reach some and they must live the rest of their life behind bars, we can say we have adhered to this Biblical promise, "I will have mercy and not sacrifice."

Cahill states, "The crime is secondary. Crime is secondary. There are no millionaires on death row nor will there ever be. Almost everyone on death row is poor. And do you really think that no millionaire ever committed a capital crime? I'm saying that there are certain people that we are willing to offer up, and not others, and they're the people who have no power. We're not killing Dominique Green because he committed murder. We're killing Dominique Green because we want to kill somebody."

This is pure liberal hogwash! I AM a “liberal”by most any measure, and I can smell liberal hogwash as well as anyone . If Cahill’s last sentence were true then (among other things) the act of execution would not be secret and hidden, as Cahill seems to criticize. If the death penalty is because “we” want to kill, then “we” would want to hear much more about it ... but seldom do unless some “liberal” makes an issue of it. Too, would we not have death row commonly populated with perpetrators of many other crimes ... or none at all. Statements and notions such as his give liberalism a bad name.

My belief is that, as yet unstated, the death penalty is about our own perceptions of carrying out the perceived, and highly likely, “last wishes” of the innocent victim of the crime of murder.

Few of us are so brave ... and foolish and senseless ... when it comes to the value of our own life to ourselves, as to not want, if given the choice, to end the life preemptively of one who would, especially capriciously and without provocation, end our own. History demonstrates that as fact if nothing else ... daily. The presumptive “last wish” of anyone in such a position is that the murderer, not the innocent victim, shall die if someone shall and must. The death of the victim does not erase that presumed last wish.

I support this theory with the observation that, quite to the contrary of what Cahill would have us believe, we (generally) do not cheer the death of the murderer after trial and conviction much at all, but it is often a national cause for celebration when we hear of the 70 year old store proprietor who “gets the jump” on a would be robber/killer and does him (or rarely her) in ... or when under the threat of murder a mother successfully defends her child and herself thus.

I believe it is that fact, the presumptive last wish of the victim, that is the real impetus to maintain a death penalty for the crime of murder, and not “deterrent” or any other of the theories that those who oppose the death penalty proffer only to shoot at with statistics. Not “blood lust”, and not, so much, hate either. It is in essence the feeling of need to carry out of the presumed last wishes of the deceased innocent.

Make the process fair, to be sure. Spend time and effort to insure guilt. Then unburden this badly overburdened world (by the crush of humanity) from having to support such a one any longer. No excuses. For every mistreated “Green” there are tens who suffered worse and who will not kill the innocent.

Be concerned, if at all, only for him or her who does not know enough to value his or her own life and thus cannot appreciate the gravity of the taking of another. Obviously Green valued his ... he was desirous of spending it in a tiny cell rather than lose it. He knew what he was doing.

I would be for letting the family of the victim, when applicable/available, decide “prison or death”, perhaps according to what they would think their kin would want (or ... not). That added capriciousness (like that of the murderer him/herself) may be just what the concept of punishment for murder needs. Frankly, it’s getting way too “civilized” to fit the crime. The crime is no more “civilized” than it ever was, nor are the perpetrators.

If Green had exuded the same charm to his victim as he does in the picture above this post, Mr. Cahill could save his "bleeding" for a better cause.

And as for (Cahill and) death row conversions ........... oh how I hate liberals.

God may hold his mother accountable, but it's our job here on Earth to hold murderous scum like Green accountable for their crimes. Penitence and forgiveness? Why stop at murder? I didn't see Moyers lining up guests to discuss how Ken Lay should be "forgiven" for the Enron debacle.
Liberalism fails because it is inconsistent, and holds no one accountable for anything.

What I also found so sad is not only do we kill but we kill the wrong ones. Why wasn't the white person who also robbed & murdered charged with anything? Again we have no justice in this country if you are Black or Brown

Cahill's take on the Fall of Rome and Irish literacy is one of the most simplistic statements I have ever heard on PBS. Civilization IS NOT determined by the literacy of an opressive, outside culture. It is historically clear that the Ogham alphabet predates the 5th century, as does Pictish and Old Norse. So the Irish were not illiterate when St. Patrick showed up. They were merely not facile with an oppressive Christian language and world view. The idea that Germanic/Celtic tribes were "envious" of a Latin oppressive culture and economy that had carried their loved ones into slavery for 400 years is ludacris. The fall of Rome was due far more to the increase of immigrants into the military and positions of civil power over 450 years, a loss of infrastructure, a loss of a common tongue and heritage, and finally the loss of a consistant agriculture and trade from Egypt. I think Cahill can find a better argument than the inequality of Roman tax infrastructure in an effort to make a point on modern U.S. taxation. It is a typical Catholic arrogance that Greco-Roman culture is superior to so-called "barbaric" pagan cultures that often ALSO had a WRITTEN language and a set of technologies useful in their geographies, which is so conveniently forgotten. Consider the pagan Norse and their nautical technologies which were far superior to anything ever devised by "literate" Greco-Romans.

Bill Moyers is such a great gift to American life, and I appreciate his paying attention to capital punishment, but beside the intellectual conversation, it would be good if he provided tools for changing public opinion -- such as urging that many see a film that helped eliminate capital punishment in Europe, A SHORT FILM ABOUT KILLING by Krzysztof Kieslowski. Nevertheless, thank you, Mr. Moyers -- There is just you and Keith Obermann -- all else in the media is lies.

Such a sad statement for our civilization. I liked that Thomas Cahill stressed penitence should be the way to go instead of the death penalty whenever possible.

The tragedy in this Country is child abuse and the heartless attitude that holds these damaged people up to standards as if all were from loving homes.

The judgmental, in tolerant, no excuses allowed, get over it world we have created rubs salt into the wounds of the abused.

How sad that this man saw death as preferable to the life he endured.

God rest his soul, he is now at peace. God will hold his Mother accountable.

Post a comment

THE MOYERS BLOG is our forum for viewers' comments intended for discussing and debating ideas and issues raised on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL. THE MOYERS BLOG invites you to share your thoughts. We are committed to keeping an open discussion; in order to preserve a civil, respectful dialogue, our editors reserve the right to remove or alter any comments that we find unacceptable, for any reason. For more information, please click here.

THE MOYERS BLOG
A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

Your Comments

Podcasts

THE JOURNAL offers a free podcast and vodcast of all weekly episodes. (help)

Click to subscribe in iTunes

Subscribe with another reader

Get the vodcast (help)

For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

© Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ