Monday, December 12, 2005

Last Words

According to his official website, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has just denied clemency for convicted murdered Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Tonight's scheduled execution has been generating a lot of activity in recent weeks on death penalty websites that address either advocacy or opposition audiences. It has been an item on many media and lifestyle sites as well.

Digital forms of official discourse about capital punishment are increasingly important, particularly since they have taken on certain generic features, as "model" public websites emerge. For Williams, a media advisory page covers everything from parking to press credentials. Ever mindful of decorum, the generic fact sheet on Williams even includes this parental advisory message: "The following crime summary contains a graphic description of one or more murders and may not be suitable for all ages." The recently revamped California Department of Corrections Capital Punishment site includes color photos and some information about the last meals and last words of the executed.

I would guess that official corrections websites around the country with capital punishment procedures are emulating the longstanding site from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Death Row Information, which includes last statements from the condemned, although the site no longer lists last meals. In my college teaching, I have conducted extremely successful classroom activites that use the Texas list of scheduled executions to connect students' philosophical positions with the concrete particularities of individual defendents and crimes.

(Because Williams was co-founder of the Crips street gang, I also found myself looking at a form of unofficial web commemoration that is often overlooked by scholars of the web: "remembrance gardens" like this Remembrance Garden at



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