cence in some cases, in others it ought tornprove guilt, an impHcation that blows thernargument about “certainty” out of the water.rnThe argument is that, as GovernorrnRyan says, until we “can be sure, withrnmoral certainty,” that no innocent personrnis being executed, we should have no executions.rnBut what if we are certain he isrnguilty? If the “conservative case againstrncapital punishment” applies only to innocentrnpeople wrongly condemned torndeath, then it’s not an argument againstrncapital punishment but an argumentrnagainst executing innocent people,rnwhich no one questions.rnAs for “certainty” itself, the governor,rnMr. Cannon, and some of the other criticsrninvoke it casually. The fact is thatrn”certainty,” in the sense they are usingrnthe word, is rarely available in contestedrncriminal proceedings or any other humanrnjudgment. The standard in Americanrncourts of law is that guilt must bernproved “beyond a reasonable doubt,” butrnthat is not the “certainty” the critics demand.rnIn Maryland this summer, liberalrnDemocratic Gov. Parris Glendeningrncommuted the death sentence of a manrnnamed Eugene Colvin-el, who was convictedrnof a 1980 murder in which hisrnbloody fingerprint was found at the crimernscene. The convict was also known tornhave pawned a pocket watch belongingrnto the victim. In commuting the sentence.rnGovernor Glendening said, “I believernthat Colvin-el committed thisrncrime, but I do not have the same level ofrnabsolute certainty” as in other cases. IfrnColvin-el’s DNA had been found on thernvictim instead of his fingerprint, wouldrnthat have established “certaint'” for therngovernor? By this standard, vou have tornwonder how anyone can ever know anything.rnThe standard of “certainty” collapsesrninto epistemological nihilism.rnYet I venture to guess that if someonernelse’s fingerprint had been found at therncrime scene, that would have been takenrnas certain proof of Colvin-el’s innocence.rnMr. Cannon, as well as Governors Ryanrnand Glendening, seem to have no problemrnwith “certainty” when it points to innocencernand gets somebody off DeathrnRow; it’s only when e’eryone else—police,rnprosecutors, judges, and juries —isrncertain of guilt that thev invoke doubt.rnIn any case, it is not the business of arngovernor, in Illinois or Maryland, conservativernor liberal, to second-guess therncourts. The reason we have courts at allrnis to establish what Governors Ryan andrnGlendening insist on deciding for themselves.rnIf the governors have good reasonrnto believe condemned men havernbeen wrongfully or unfairly convictedrn(through new evidence or reviews of trialsrnand appeals), then commutations, reprieves,rnor pardons may be in order. Butrnto overturn what the courts have alreadyrndetermined through due process simplyrnbecause it doesn’t conform to the governors’rnprivate whims is a usurpation of judicialrnauthority.rnOf course, innocent people may wellrnhave been executed. Mr. Cannon mentionsrnthe case of Bruno Hauptmann, executedrnin 1936 for the murder of the Lindberghrnbaby, and there is good reason tornbelieve Hauptmann was railroaded tornhis death by the state of New Jersey (particularlyrnby the head of the New Jerseyrnstate police at the time, a gentlemanrnnamed Norman Schwarzkopf, father ofrnthe general glamorized in the Gulf War.rnSlaughtering innocent people may runrnin the family blood, much as killing criminalsrnran in the blood of the Sanson clan).rnAs Mr. Cannon acknowledges, errorsrnhappen, and sometimes, as we all knowrnfrom the novels of Raymond Chandlerrnand James Ellroy, the cops or prosecutorsrnpick a guy for the fall simply because hernlooks good for it, not because there’s anyrnreal evidence.rnBut these are not flaws of the system ofrnpunishment. They are, at most, flaws ofrnthe law-enforcement and judicial systemsrnor of human nature itself, and if governmentrnis going to be halted by them,rnit’s not clear what it can do. If the criminalrnjustice system is convicting innocentrnpeople, should it impose any punishmentrnat all? Mr. Gannon speaks of thernwaste experienced bv wrongfully convictedrnmen “released after years on DeathrnRow with a pardon or a half-hearted apologyrnby the state and, if they are luck)-, anrninadequate monetary settlement.” Ofrncourse, the same could be said of innocentrnmen sentenced to life imprisonment.rnGiven the critics’ certaint}’ of uncertainty,rnit’s hard to see how vou couldrncross the street without being smacked byrna truck.rnNone of the arguments against capitalrnpunishment mounted by conservatives inrnrecent months is very new, and none isrnparticularly compelling. No matter howrnadvanced forensic techniques become,rnthere is alwas going to be an element ofrnuncertainty in some cases, perhaps in allrncases, just as there always has been.rnWhat the new conservative “case againstrncapital punishment” really proves is notrnthe injustice or inexpediency of the deathrnpenalt}’, but the disintegration of the conservativernmind and its digestion by thernomnivorous mentality’ of the left, to thernpoint that it is no longer distinguishablernfrom the latter.rn”The age is running mad after innovation,”rnSamuel Johnson remarked to SirrnWilliam Scott when he learned that thernprocession of condemned prisoners fromrnNewgate jail to Tyburn tree was to bernabolished, “and all the business of thernworld is to be done in a new way; men arernto be hanged in a new way; Tyburn itselfrnis not safe from the fur}’ of innovation.”rnDr. Johnson was not a cruel man, and it’srndoubtful he took anv pleasure in the executionsrnthat served as spectator sportrnin the England of his time, but he saw inrnthe abolition of the procession of therndamned an ominous symbol of what wasrncoming: a creeping uncertainty aboutrngood and evil, right and wrong, justicernand injustice, and reward and punishmentrnthat at first infected only those of hisrnown contemporaries v’ho were most furiousrnfor innovation, but which eventuallyrnwould spread to those who are supposedrnto be immune to it. The consequence ofrnthe collapse of moral certainty is an imwillingnessrnto assert moral authority ofrnany kind or to back it up by the use ofrnforce, whether it involves merely thernspanking of children or the highly skilledrnmystery of executing criminals, and therncollapse and its consequences have beenrnevident in the mentality of the left everrnsince Dr. Johnson’s day, to the point thatrnthey now threaten the survival of civilizationrnitself What the “conservative” casernagainst capital punishment shows is thatrnthe collapse is no longer confined to thernmind of the left but has captured a majorrnbeachhead within the mind of the rightrnas well. That capture confirms, oncernagain, that the right, as it has been knownrnfor the last half century, no longer existsrnexcept as an appendage of the left, andrnthat it can no longer serve as a useful instrumentrnof resistance to leftist demands.rnWhen in Rockford,rnEat atrnLee’s Chinese Restaurantrn3443 N. Main StreetrnSEPTEMBER 2000/33rnrnrn