In high school I wrote a paper on the death penalty. In college I wrote one. A few of my students have written papers on it, taking the typical stands in their “persuasion” assignments. There’s really nothing new to say about it. I’ve read editorials and listened to advocates of both sides of the Stanley "Tookie" Williams’ death sentence debate. He is dead now, and the argument continues, the same points raised: deterrence, closure, compassion, redemption, judicial error, bad cops, bad prosecutors, incompetent defense, victims’ rights, eye for an eye, cheek turning, mercy, family grief, European abolition, expenses, prison space, fear, injections, hanging, etc. Only anecdote can change. Apparently everyone plagiarized my paper. If the death penalty somehow undergoes a sea change, it will only be because of public mood or will, not facts. This is actually interesting. The fight over the death penalty will be won or lost through a cultural war aimed at altering the public’s will and, therefore, reception of over-told information and worn arguments. So too with many a national debate. It’s not about facts—WMD’s, blah blah—but of attempts to condition a people in a certain way. Williams, to some (perhaps limited) extent, died because of the public determination for retribution, hyped up by the current culture of fear that permits people to ignore facts but receive the conditioning.