On Monday Governor Schwarzenegger surprised no one when he denied the clemency request of Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams self-admitted founder of the Crips gang and convicted quadruple murderer. As I write this, Williams is scheduled to die in about an hour by lethal injection and I’m having a little deathwatch of my own as I write this article and read over his inglorious history.
Clemency was a last chance for Williams, whose lawyers had already filed about a dozen appeals and petitions for a new trial on every imaginable technical grounds, from the ethnicity of the jurors in his original trial to the motives of some of the witnesses at the trial. Surprisingly no appeals were filed on the basis that the jurors may have been biased because of Williams’ repeated threats to have them all killed. None of the appeals was successful and although Williams maintained his innocence, the evidence against him in the four murders was overwhelming, including the testimony of an accomplice and physical evidence linking a shotgun in his possession to the murders. There was even an additional eyewitness who was never called to testify in the trial, although he testified to witnessing Williams kill one of the victims at his own trial.
Williams attracted a lot of attention to his cause because of his claims to have been ‘redeemed’. He authored a memoir and several children’s books while in jail, and was actually nominated for a Nobel prize seven times based on his writing and work on anti-gang education, plus he was the subject of a very sympathetic cable biopic starring Jamie Foxx. Much of his written work could be characterized as self-promotion designed to justify himself and excuse his history of violence, though there is certainly some value to his books warning children of the dangers of gangs. By law Williams could not profit monetarily from his writing, but he certainly seems to have reaped major profits in attracting supporters.
Protesters have gathered at San Quentin, among them former Crip and popular rapper Snoop Dogg, actor Mike Farrell and folk singer Joan Baez. Authorities in various parts of California have some concern over the possibility of rioting in the wake of the execution. Williams’ supporters have laid out their case on the Web site www.tookie.com.
Despite his claims of redemption, those who knew Williams maintain that he continued to be in contact with his old gang throughout his 22 years in jail, and he was never willing to accept offers of a lighter sentence in exchange for information on the Crips organization. He also continued to be involved in violent incidents and gang-related activity while in jail.
Schwarzenegger’s decision not to grant clemency follows the recommendation of the state Parole Board which voted 3-1 against clemency for Williams. Clemency is almost never granted solely on the basis of good works done in prison, which is Williams’ main basis for the request. It usually requires a confession and a statement of remorse from the subject, neither of which Williams was willing to give.
As Williams goes to his death, many are asking “why?”
Why does anyone feel a moment’s regret for the execution of a multiple murderer whose convictions represent only a fraction of his actual violent crimes? Why would anyone object to the execution of someone who created a nationwide organization which deals drugs to children, terrorizes urban populations and carries out indiscriminate territorial warfare in many of our cities – violent crimes to which Williams is an accessory? What makes people so eager to believe good of a violent murderer when common sense should tell them to fear and revile him? Or why has it taken 22 years, a dozen court decisions and over a million tax dollars to finally get to this day when Williams could have been executed 20 years ago after his mandatory appeal? And for that matter, why would the Nobel prize committee even consider an award for this murderous gangster?
Suggesting that a few childrens’ books and an anti-gang memoir could erase all the harm that Tookie Williams did during his life is ludicrous. Remorse can’t bring his victims back to life or undo all the harm that his legacy with the Crips has done. For the state to assume responsibility on behalf of the people to execute any human being is a grave and serious matter, but if we accept that as citizens we can delegate that responsibility to the state, then who could ever be more deserving of that fate than Tookie Williams? The evidence against him is undeniable and the crimes he committed were inexcusable.
They say that “justice delayed is justice denied,” and this execution was certainly delayed far too long to be fair to the families of Williams’ many victims, but some justice has at last been delivered because during the two hours it took to put this article together Tookie Williams took the long walk to the padded table and was finally executed.
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