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TL;DR version:

Mace Windu was willing to execute Palpatine on the spot, because he recognized that Palpatine was "too dangerous to be kept alive", and feared both Palpatine's influence on Anakin, and his influence on the Senate and Courts.

Was this decision for a summary execution on the spot in keeping with the Jedi way, or was Mace's decision influenced by his use of the Vaapad fighting style?

This answer to the question Why did Obi-Wan leave Vader on Mustafa? makes the point that killing a beaten foe who does not pose an immediate threat is not the Jedi way:

(both quotes sourced from IMSDB), first one when Anakin dis-arms (and dis-hands) Dooku, then kills him:

ANAKIN: ... I couldn't stop myself.

PALPATINE: You did well, Anakin. He was too dangerous to be kept alive.

ANAKIN drops COUNT DOOKU's lightsaber, moving to PALPATINE.

ANAKIN: Yes, but he was an unarmed prisoner.

ANAKIN raises his hands toward PALPATINE, who is strapped in the Admiral's Chair. The Chancellor's restraints pop loose.

ANAKIN: (continuing) I shouldn't have done that, Chancellor. It's not the Jedi way.

--

And the second one just before Anakin's fall to the Dark Side:

MACE WINDU: You Sith disease. I am going to end this once and for all.

ANAKIN: You can't kill him, Master. He must stand trial.

MACE WINDU: He has too much control of the Senate and the Courts. He is too dangerous to be kept alive.

PALPATINE: I'm too weak. Don't kill me. Please.

ANAKIN: It is not the Jedi way...

Yet Mace Windu was clearly willing to kill Palpatine, even though Palpatine was apparently beaten. This was discussed in a separate question, and I think the answers provide some good explanations for Mace Windu's motivation.

My first thought was that Anakin, a Jedi Knight for a mere three years, and teetering on the edge of falling to the Dark Side, would not understand the Jedi way as well as Mace Windu, Jedi Master and member of the Jedi High Council.

But then I noticed this from one of the answers:

Also, Windu practices and mastered a lightsaber technique call Vaapad, that channels your rage into your strikes in a controlled manner. If anything there is/was a lot of darkness within him, which it fought to control.

I found that interesting, and looked into that a bit more on Wookieepedia, which had this to say:

Vaapad was described as more than a fighting style; it was a state of mind that led through the penumbra of the dark side, requiring the user to enjoy the fight, and relish the satisfaction of winning. The practitioner of Vaapad would accept the fury of their opponent, transforming them into one half of a superconducting loop, with the other half being the power of darkness inherent in the opponent. The form was also mentioned with a cautionary warning by the Jedi that use of Vaapad led the user perilously close to the dark side due to its focus on physical combat.

So given that Mace Windu was using this form at the time of his decision to kill Palpatine, was he really making a decision in keeping with Jedi ideals, or was this the fury of "the penumbra of the Dark side" tinging his judgement?

Is killing an apparently beaten foe justifiable under the Jedi ideals, or are the precedents for immediate and summary execution?

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    Windu seems torn. He can't allow him to live, nor can he kill him. He finally justifies it (in his own mind) by treating it as an execution. – Valorum Jul 31 '14 at 15:17
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    I'd point out that when Dooku is beaten, he genuinely seems defeated - like he has little or no fight left in him. Palpatine, on the other hand, doesn't sound genuine in his "plea for mercy". If Dooku had been arrested, he could possibly be held with little issue. Palpatine, on the other hand, had gained so much influence and control, that they would never be able to hold or stop him. – phantom42 Jul 31 '14 at 15:23
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    There's a BIG difference between a defeated enemy leader, who is an acknowledged and visible enemy and the clandestine leader of what amounts to a coup, who has the backing of a 'legitimate' government which cannot be convinced of his crimes. – Jeff Jul 31 '14 at 15:35
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    Aren't "defenseless" and "pose a threat" contradictory? – WGroleau Dec 31 '15 at 6:20
  • @Wgroleau not at all. Defenseless is temporary. The threat posed is long term. – Beofett Dec 31 '15 at 11:52
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Let's consult a much older, much wiser Jedi Knight on the matter. Yoda?

"A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack." - Yoda, Ep. V

So in short, no it is not the Jedi way, no matter how Windu tried to justify it.

It also rests on the blurry line between being the Jedi way and being part of the Dark Side, a blur that Palpatine uses to sway Anakin towards the ways of the Sith. And, despite the irony of the quote, I need to reference yet another older, wiser Jedi.

"Only a Sith deals in absolutes." - Obi-wan

Despite it not being 'the way', Windu had justification for doing it, and it is the absolutism that Anakin embraced that runs into conflict with this action.

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    Obi-wan's quote above is both hypocritical and out of context. The Jedi deal in absolutes all the time: "Jedi do not marry," "Emotions must be suppressed," and "Fear is bad" are all absolute positions the Jedi espouse. Obi-wan's statement was meant to counsel that you should consider alternatives, not simply do something the way it had always been done. – Jeff Jul 31 '14 at 15:45
  • @jeff True, but this is hardly the only problem the Jedi Order had going on. The whole purpose of the Clone War and the Sith Threat was to put an end to the Jedi, and more than anything they did that by forcing them to act against their own rules and dividing them against what they stood for. So yes, the Jedi had always dealt in absolutes, but until recently that hadn't been a problem. – Zibbobz Jul 31 '14 at 15:56
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    @Jeff Oh but Jedi did marry, with special dispensations, sometimes. Emotions were not to be suppressed in every reading of the Jedi Code, they could also be processed peacefully: Emotion, yet peace. And 'fear is bad' is not so much a Jedi thing as 'fear can be bad'! These aren't v. good examples of Jedi absolutes. (Sorry, but I couldn't help myself) – Shisa Jul 31 '14 at 16:01
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    "Only a Sith deals in absolutes." Isn't that an "absolute" in and of itself? – G_Hosa_Phat Jul 31 '14 at 21:24
  • @G_Hosa_Phat Yup, that's the irony of the quote, as mentioned by Zibbobz. – Shisa Aug 1 '14 at 0:57
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Don't have the novelization on me, but according to both G and C canon, Windu has a Force ability to see the "correct" actions to take to bring resolution to a conflict (named "Shatterpoints"). As such, his decision to kill the Emperor was driven by the Force, not by rage.

Having said that, in a logical, moral and ethical sense, Jedi do kill if there's no other option. While killing a surrendered harmless defenseless opponent isn't the Jedi Way, Sidious is a Sith Master, only pretending to be defeated. As such, Windu has no other option between killing him or letting him win (as is explored in details in Zibbobz's answer).

  • While I appreciate the reference, this answer to a different question is an even better explanation for why Windu had no other choice: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/51294/20533 – Zibbobz Jul 31 '14 at 16:09
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    Luke Skywalker displays a similar ability in Timothy Zahn's novel, Spectre of the Past. It would seem that Jedi do have to sometimes be willing to kill, even if the individual is no threat. In The New Rebellion, Leia guns down Kueller after he loses a lightsaber duel to Luke Skywalker. Kueller was about to use a remote-triggered bomb as a weapon, but Leia didn't know that when she shot him; she just assumed he was a future threat. Luke Skywalker himself resolves to kill Raynar Thul in The Swarm War, though he later changes his mind. Sometimes killing is necessary, for the greater good. – James Sheridan Aug 1 '14 at 5:37
  • They wear swords that can cut people into slices and do it in bar fights! Of course the Jedi kill! – Oldcat Nov 19 '14 at 2:18
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Remember that Jedi justify their actions based on their own viewpoint.

Obi-Wan: So what I told you was true... from a certain point of view.
Luke: A certain point of view?
Obi-Wan: Luke, you're going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

Anakin may not understand this. He seems to cling to an idea of honorable combat (up until he massacres all the children). But the Jedi aren't always about doing what might be perceived as honorable, but they are more about doing the greater good. Killing Palpatine, who orchestrated the entire war, and who obviously is trying to cease absolute power, is going to be the greater good, rather than allow him the chance to continue on.

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    And "the greater good" is a favorite and very believable way authors write fallen Jedi. Just a little expediency. Then a little more... Now if only the Galaxy would DO AS I COMMAND, WE WOULD HAVE PEACE! – Zan Lynx Jan 15 '15 at 2:44
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It depends on how you define "the Jedi way", but it most likely was not the Jedi way.

It would have been a controversial action, and I'm sure many Jedi would have opposed it.

My ultimate conclusion though, is that the situation with Sidious was an extraordinarily exceptional one where his execution would be justified (by at least the Jedi Council).

I do not think Vapaad was getting in the way of Windu's judgement.

The Jedi were keepers of the peace and defenders of the Republic. The Sith, on the other hand, were trying to destroy the Jedi and take over the Republic.

Even before knowing that Palpatine was Sidious, the Jedi Council concluded that they might have to use force to remove him from office.

MACE WINDU: I sense a plot to destroy the Jedi. The dark side of the Force surrounds the Chancellor.

KI-ADI-MUNDI: If he does not give up his emergency powers after the destruction of Grievous, then he should be removed from office.

MACE WINDU: That could be a dangerous move ... the Jedi Council would have to take control of the Senate in order to secure a peaceful transition . . .

YODA: To a dark place this line of thought will carry us. Hmmmmm. . . . great care we must take.

The quote implies that Yoda was uneasy with such action, but he did not oppose it.

From the Jedi Council's point of view, the Sith had to be stopped. Once Windu confirmed that Palpatine was Sidious, he rationalized that arresting him would not save the Republic. Capturing him would be pointless and he couldn't just let him go. Windu didn't really have any other choice.

MACE WINDU: He has too much control of the Senate and the Courts. He is too dangerous to be kept alive.

What about other members of the Jedi council? While I can't vouch for all of them, I do believe Yoda would have supported Windu's decision.

Before knowing the identity of Sidious, Yoda preferred the capture of the Sith, but condoned their execution if it was necessary.

In Season 6 of The Clone Wars, Yoda has a vision of Anakin and himself facing off against Dooku and Sidious.

ANAKIN: We intercepted a transmission calling Dooku to Coruscant. We believe he is meeting with his master, the Sith Lord.

YODA: Feel it I do. Feel their power.

ANAKIN: Your orders, Master?

YODA: Capture them we will. The time has come to discover the identity of this Sith Master.

ANAKIN: And if they escape?

YODA: Escape, not. If it comes to it, Execute them we must. End it now, we will. Move in.

In this vision, Anakin engages Dooku and the fight ends in a similar manner as their duel in Revenge of the Sith, with Anakin holding the two lightsabers near Dooku's throat. Yoda senses that Anakin is about to execute Dooku. Yoda instructs him not to but Anakin does it anyway. Yoda is disappointed, but he lets it go because he prioritizes on confronting Sidious.

I believe Yoda wanted to spare Dooku for several reasons:

  1. Yoda considered Dooku his greatest student and his greatest failure. There would be a lot of conflict within Yoda.

  2. Dooku did not have control of the Senate or the courts. I'm sure Yoda believed that the Republic would support the capture of Dooku, so killing him was not necessary.

  3. Yoda knew that Dooku had commissioned the Clone Army for the Jedi and still needed to find out why.

After finding out Sidious' identity, Yoda seems to hold the same belief as Windu, that Sidious must be killed.

YODA: Destroy the Sith, we must.

OBI-WAN: Send me to kill the Emperor. I will not kill Anakin.

YODA: To fight this Lord Sidious, strong enough, you are not.

OBI-WAN: He is like my brother ... I cannot do it.

YODA: Twisted by the dark side, young Skywalker has become. The boy you trained, gone he is . . . Consumed by Darth Vader.

Judging by Yoda's fighting words, I think his intentions for Vader and Sidious were quite clear.

YODA: At an end your rule is and not short enough it was.

*DARTH SIDIOUS tries to flee, but YODA stops him.*

YODA: (continuing) If so powerful you are, why leave??

*YODA ignites his lightsaber.*

In the Original Trilogy, Kenobi and Yoda are training Luke to destroy Vader and the Emperor. We can see this when Kenobi does not believe that Luke can redeem Vader.

LUKE: There's still good in him.

BEN: He is more machine now than man. Twisted and evil.

LUKE: I can't do it, Ben.

BEN: You cannot escape your destiny.

...

LUKE: I can't kill my own father.

BEN: Then the Emperor has already won. You were our only hope.

So as I said at the beginning:

My ultimate conclusion is that the situation with Sidious was an extraordinarily exceptional one where his execution would be justified by at least the Jedi Council. Whether it's "the Jedi way" or not, though, probably not.

One last minor detail I'd like to note is that Anakin and Ventress had this little exchange:

Asajj Ventress: I suppose you expect me to surrender?

Anakin Skywalker: Actually, I plan to let the clones execute you. Right now.

Anakin isn't quite the model Jedi though, so this is probably not a typical reaction that a Jedi would take.

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    From the prequels, it seems the Jedi way is sitting in semicircles talking most of the time. – Oldcat Nov 19 '14 at 2:19
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The "Jedi way" is a subjective, vague interpretation of a Jedi's place in society. Every Jedi will interpret it differently. There is the Jedi Code, but it does not speak directly on the act of killing.

If you are wondering if, in general, the Jedi would have viewed Mace Windu's execution of Darth Sidious as an act inconsistent with the "Jedi way", most canon would point to "No." Listed in order of authority on the "Jedi way":

  1. Master Yoda attempts to kill Sidious. (Ep. 3)
  2. Master Yoda implicitly orders the execution of Sidious, when speaking to Obi-Wan. (Ep. 3)
  3. Master Yoda orders the execution of Count Dooku and his master. (Clone Wars)
  4. Master Windu attempts to kill Sidious. (Ep. 3)

Additionally, if a man reveals himself to be the Dark Lord of the Sith, the supreme being of the Dark Side, who but the most pacifist Jedi would oppose killing him? There is video evidence of his plot to overthrow the Republic and the killing of multiple Jedi, as well as his obvious mastery of the Dark Side. I don't think Master Windu would have any trouble justifying his actions to other Jedi.

0

To those outside of its influence, the Jedi Code and the ways of the Jedi Order can seem complicated and contradictory. Even those within the Jedi Order sometimes find a path of action difficult to decide on. In fact, this exact topic was discussed in the very first issue of Star Wars: Tales, in the story "Life, Death and the Living Force".

In the tale, Qui-Gon Jinn and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi find themselves on the planet Arorua shortly before the events of Episode I. Their campsite is found by an annoying alien creature who acts extremely rudely and demands food. Qui-gon feeds the creature and explains to Obi-Wan that the creature cannot help being annoying... it is simply its nature. Later, however, the creature attempts to kill the Jedi in order to take their belongings, and Qui-gon easily kills him. A confused Obi-Wan believes that it was wrong to first show the alien kindness, then kill him. Qui-gon explains that allowing the creature to live at the expense of their OWN lives was the worse of the two evils.

The pair later find that the planet is home to a Dark Side creature called a Silan, and enter its lair specifically to kill it. After the Silan's destruction, the two have the following exchange:

enter image description here

So, like the Silan here, Windu probably felt that allowing Sidious to live would be the greater evil... perhaps even with the Force guiding him to kill the Sith Lord.

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Mace Windu thinks that killing a being without it causing a need to do so is not right. We see this from the clone wars when he doesn't want to kill the wild beast thingamajiga because although it was powerful it didn't start up the Jedi, but the Jedi started up with it (accidentally). The reason he wanted to kill Palpatine was that he was so dangerous and impossible to be detained also Palpatine started. Palpatine was never defenseless he had is lightning and influence. The second Mace would turn his back on him he would kill him.

The reason Obi-Wan left Anakin on Mustufar without killing him was because:

  1. he thought there was no way for Anakin to survive and

  2. Obi-Wan had no problem with killing him regarding "the Jedi way" rather he didn't have the heart to kill his old apprentice, friend and "brother"

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