A Death Penalty Foe on the Bush Team

  • Share
  • Read Later

President Bush may be known for his vigorous — some would say enthusiastic — application of the death penalty while he was governor of Texas. But that hasn't stopped him from hiring a prominent anti–death penalty advocate to a top post in his administration. John J. DiIulio, a public policy scholar — and also, incidentally, a Democrat —was tapped earlier this week to run the administration's office of faith-based programs. Almost all of the articles and TV reports written about DiIulio, who has a perch at both the conservative Manhattan Institute and centrist Brookings Institution, have failed to mention his opposition to the death penalty — something that Bush has applied far more frequently than any politician in recent decades.

DiIulio used to support capital punishment. Why the switch? In the course of his extensive research studying crime, he changed his mind, a change of heart he laid out in a 1997 editorial for the conservative Wall Street Journal. His beef is that death row is a crapshoot because there is no logical relationship between those who commit capital crimes and those who end up facing death. Of the roughly 600,000 homicides committed in the U.S. since 1976, only 639 convicts have been executed. "It's become a lottery as to who gets killed," DiIulio told TIME last year. "Do the math."