Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Thu Jun 11 05:16:12 PDT 1998

This morning's New York Times is full of talk of responsibility. Supporters of a tough new U.S. bankruptcy bill, which was literally written by a credit industry law firm (a point the NYT doesn't report), say they want to tighten the code to impose a sense of responsibility among profligate debtors.

And, responsibility of another sort, too. From a profile of Eleanore L. Walker, a juoror who voted the other day to condemn Darrel K. Harris to death for a triple murder, the first death sentence in New York State in decades:

"She found the answer the following morning. When she awoke on Saturday, Ms. Walker said, she opened her Bible and came to the Book of Galatians. 'It said something about how the wicked must be destroyed,' she recalled. 'Everything I read pointed to wickedness, destruction, reaping and repenting. I took it as a strong sign of what my decision should be.

It helped me. [...]

That Ms. Walker, who cast the criticl final vite, traced her change of heart to a religious epiphany is not unusual, experts say. WIlliam Bowers, who heads the Capital Jury Project, which since 1991 has interviewed 1,000 death penalty jurors in 15 states, said that jurors burdened by their responsibility will on occasion invoke what they perceive as the will of God.

'It's mostly that it relieves them of a measure of personal responsibility for the decision.'"

In other words, God made 'em do it.

If only Ms. Walker's bible had fallen open to the "let him who is without sin cast the first stone" passage.


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