Chris Bertram from Crooked Timber says:
I have no opinion about whether he was guilty or not, nor do I know whether the various good works he has engaged in in prison were sincerely motivated. I am generally opposed to the death penalty, for a variety of familiar reasons. But I m moved to post now, not to articulate those general reasons, but out of a sense of incredulity. The crimes for which Williams was convicted took place in 1979, when he was in his mid-20s. Even if I thought it was right to execute people for such crimes, I think I‘d baulk at the idea of killing someone in his 50s for an act committed more than a quarter of a century ago. To do that is almost like executing another person.
That certainly rings true for me, though I don’t think it is a compelling argument against the death penalty. If you had to make the punishment take place within a reasonable time frame as the crime you would have to eliminate the extensive appeals process.
Partisans on both sides would like to take advantage of that tension (pro-death folks would love to eliminate much of the appeals process, anti-death would toss up their hands ‘We can’t punish them in a timely matter and guarantee due process, guess he gets to live’).