When Felix G. Rohatyn went to Paris as the American ambassador in 1997, he expected the most controversial subject he’d face to be the famous French mistrust of “American hegemony.” To his surprise, the No. 1 issue turned out to be the death penalty.
The “enormous revulsion of the French” over the issue, he told me in 2001 after his return to New York, was eye-opening, as was his friendship with Robert Badinter, the French minister of justice who, under President François Mitterrand, led the fight for the abolition of capital punishment in 1981.
“All those demonstrations, in front of the embassy and the consulates, showed how really passionate people were,” Mr. Rohatyn said. “And in the end, I thought they were probably right.”
Two recent magazine articles — one French, the other American — demonstrate that while the issue has not gone away in Paris, it has taken a new turn in the United States. There has been a big change in American attitudes toward capital punishment during the last decade, and Europe has played a part in it.
The American magazine article is Pamela Colloff's Texas Monthly article on former TDCJ spokeswoman Michelle Lyons.