Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Clemency for VA death row inmate

Gov. Tim Kaine (D-VA) has wisely granted clemency to Percy Walton, commuting his death sentence to life imprisonment.

Virginia's Republican attorney general, Bob McDonnell, said the request should not have been granted, despite accumulating evidence that Walton's mental condition has worsened since he was arrested for the murders, which he committed 12 years ago at the age of 18.

According to a Richmond newspaper, one of Walton's lawyers commended Kaine's action. When asked how Walton would react to the news, he said poignantly that it "won't make any difference to him. He will not know."

We shouldn't execute people like Percy Walton.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Hillary concedes

This morning at 9:30 a.m. a friend and I got in line outside the National Building Museum, where Hillary Rodham Clinton was scheduled to give her concession speech and offer some level of support for the candidacy of Barack Obama. We stood in line for half an hour, then waited for another two more inside, before the Clintons arrived, at around 12:40 p.m.

The crowd was equal parts women and men, it seemed, most of them donning some sort of "Hillary '08" garb, or at least a sticker or button. My friend and I both support Obama, but we wanted to see a little slice of history — the concession speech of the strongest female candidate ever to run for U.S. President.

Hillary gave a terrific speech. She thanked her supporters and reiterated her goals for improving the country: universal health care, ending the war, fixing the economy, creating jobs, solving global warming. Then she offered her full-fledged endorsement of Senator Obama. At least half a dozen times she told the crowd that we would all have to work together to "Elect Barack Obama." The first time she said it, a woman near me screamed out, "No!" But that woman was the exception. Many of Hillary's remarks, primarily those about her own accomplishments, drew raucous applause. When she encouraged her most strident supporters to "Elect Barack Obama," the response was not as strong. Clearly it will take a while for the nearly 18 million Hillarycrats to follow her lead, but most of them will. She pointed out the myriad similarities between herself and Obama, how they share a common vision for the country and how important it will be for the future of the country that Democrats unite to achieve it. She touched on the importance of Supreme Court nominees, which drew sustained applause.

Hillary then turned to the feminist aspects of her achievements, a point that was well-received by the audience. She talked about the "greatest glass ceiling of them all" — the presidency — and how, with the help of her supporters, there were now "18 million cracks" in that ceiling. She also said that some people will lament her withdrawal from the race and wonder about what might have been. To this she said, "Don't go there." She urged her people to look forward, not backward.

I left the National Building Museum with a strong sense of admiration for Hillary, who stood alone on that stage as a formidable leader. She may have dropped out of the race, but she will be heard from again. She has much to say and much more to accomplish.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

First trip to court

I made my first visit to a courthouse yesterday in Culpeper, Va., as an intern for the Northern Virginia Capital Defender. Here is a news account of the proceedings.