I hadn't mentioned the Ryan pardon fiasco much on here for a simple reason ... its a little perplexing. Even though I'm against the death penalty, I hardly see the need to have those sentences commuted. Hell, I dunno, maybe Ryan had no choice, unlike California in the 70s when they converted the sentences to life imprisonment (most notably that of Charles Manson). *see comments for clarification and correction on this point*
Rod Dreher of the National Review actually hits the nail on the head for me ... irony of ironies, me agreeing with a conservative about a liberal issue on the side of the more liberal argument.
The Ryan situation errs a little too highly on the side of forgiveness and that's, unfortunately, a problem. When we're talking about maybe 10% ... 5% ... 1% of death row inmates being there in error, I'm not sure it warrants having the 90+% who are guilty turned free. Convert those sentences to life instead, and those who are legitimately fighting the system to prove their innocence will continue doing so. Those who are merely looking for any outlet to spare their life will likely come to terms a little faster to being behind bars for their entire life. They'll obviously have a lot longer to look in the mirror and live with their decision to kill another life, too.
Ironically, every early account of Ryan's decision I read referred to the commuting of the sentences, but not that they were commuted to a life sentence. Even more ironically, had I referred to the paper of record, I would have noticed that this was in fact, the case. So, the fact that they are indeed life sentences now, in my mind, makes Ryan a little bit better person. I hereby retract my otherwise harsh criticisms of Ryan on this. My point of agreement with Dreher stands as-is, though.