Unlike the Tookie Williams situation, this sounds like a reasonable request for clemency — assuming the story’s facts are accurate (a rather dangerous assumption, given the source).
The story opens:
In a highly unusual development, a judge who condemned a killer to die has asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant clemency.
Michael A. Morales is to be executed Feb. 21 for the 1981 killing of Terri Winchell, a Lodi high school student. Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles R. McGrath, appointed by Gov. RonaldReagan, said in a letter to the governor that he believes the sentence was based on false testimony from a jailhouse informant.
Bruce Samuelson testified that Morales had callously boasted during a jailhouse conversation that he had planned to rape and kill the teenager. The confession supposedly took place in a crowded cellblock that Morales knew was full of informants.
Samuelson explained away Morales’ willingness to talk by saying the two men spoke in Spanish. A later investigation by the state attorney general, however, showed that Morales, a fourth-generation Californian, doesn’t speak Spanish, McGrath said.
Samuelson’s testimony not only persuaded judge and jury that the killing was egregious, but effectively canceled out Morales’ claim that he felt deep remorse for the crime, McGrath said.
Samuelson’s claim that Morales “made obscene, derogatory references to the victim … and callously boasted of the assault upon her … effectively demonstrated a heartless lack of remorse by Mr. Morales, and completely undermined his attorney’s presentation … that Mr. Morales immediately felt deep remorse for his involvement in the incident,” McGrath said.
Samuelson’s claim of Morales’ “confession was the only evidence to support the single special circumstance — lying in wait — that made Mr. Morales eligible for the death penalty,” the judge added.
I think denying clemency would also be a morally reasonable position, as I have no moral problem with death as a punishment for any deliberate and premeditated murder. But a life sentence would not gravely offend me, given the circumstances described.
UPDATE: I have reworded the first sentence of the last paragraph to make it clear that my position is a moral one. It originally read: “I think denying clemency would also be reasonable, as I have no moral problem with death as a punishment for any deliberate and premeditated murder.” But if the facts are as stated in the article, then the death penalty was not legally imposed. Even if our system of appeals didn’t provide for the adjudication of the claim (and it should), clemency would be almost mandated, given that our system in California does not permit execution for willful, premeditated murder without a special circumstance. My point was that, if it did, that would cause me no moral qualms.