We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.

Success! You're on the list.

In the wake of his failed effort to move the University of the District of Columbia, you’d think Mayor Anthony A. Williams would avoid coming off the cuff about sensitive local subjects. But after a meeting of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council last Tuesday, the mayor started musing once again. Innocently enough, Williams noted that although he had long opposed the death penalty, he had gained a better understanding of capital punishment proponents since taking office. No real change in position there, but it was enough to make capital punishment foes call for the firing squad. “The death penalty would galvanize the city [in opposition], and once again show [Williams’] political naivete,” says Timothy Cooper of Democracy Now. Just two years ago, then-Mayor Marion Barry, to no avail, called for executing cop-killers. And in 1992, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby forced D.C. to put capital punishment to a referendum—where it was soundly defeated. Mayoral spokesperson Peggy Armstrong says there are no imminent plans to explore the issue. Williams “has always been an opponent of the death penalty,” says Armstrong.