I find it disgusting that one man... one man saw fit to overturn the decisions of hundreds of jurors, judges and cavalierly dismissed the hard work of an equal number of state prosecutors and their staff. What gets my goat is that this is such an unprecedented undermining of the legal process in this state. Yes, the death penalty system is flawed. No human endeavor ever is free from it. It is possible that the death penalty might not even be an effective deterrent to crime. The time to shelve it may have come. But this requires reasoned debate, not unilateral grandstanding. The debate over balancing the rights and the wrongs of the current system cannot be held hostage by a man who is himself stepping down from public service in a cloud of shame, scandal and corruption. What little moral authority he ever had has long since been squandered. Was he seriously hoping to regain some of it in the public eye? Perhaps..!"One man"? Erm, One man and all the people who happened to vote for him. Not to mention that this entire notion that it "undermines the legal system" is nonsense; if the governer's actions were constitutional (which they undoubtedly were) then he was absolutely legally authorized to commute whatever sentences he wished, just as Bush (and Clinton, and Bush, and Reagan before him) were utterly legally authorized in pardoning whomever they wished by the system and the voters that decided to give those people the powers that the system allows them.
On the contrary, I think history will judge him as a scoundrel who has dealt a severe blow to the credibility of the legal system, and as a monster who took away the sad but only justice the families of the victims of these 167 murderers will ever have.Aside from the nonsensical idea that this has any effect on the legal system that the legal system did not bring upon itself, the second part of this is deeply disturbing. Each and every one of those families got justice when the murderers (although nowadays, one is almost tempted to say "suspected murderers") were put behind bars. To assert that the only possible avenue of justice is the cold-blooded ending of life by the state is, in my opinion, more monstrous to contemplate than any number of commuted sentences. The business of the state is not blood feud.
Update: Digby weighs in.