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Time for Tookie to Pay the Piper

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In theory, I’m somewhat inclined to oppose the death penalty. Now, people who go around killing innocent folk have it coming to them, but I don’t know how much good it really does. More importantly, I don’t much trust governments or human institutions generally to make decisions of life or death. Unfortunately, that’s all we can do sometimes. Overall though, it wouldn’t hurt my feelings too bad if we just did away with the death penalty.

Broadly I tend to be somewhat opposed, but the particulars of the cases that come up in the news always seem to cut against my urge to oppose. Stanley “Tookie” Williams dies today, and it won’t hurt my feelings a bit.

Some folks will be against this just purely on grounds of totally opposing the death penalty- and that’s ok, but if we’re going to have a death penalty at all, then the likes of Tookie are why we have it. If there’s a prisoner anywhere in the US legal system that deserves to die, Stanley Williams is right near the top of the list. This guy founded the Crips. How much more of a cutthroat thug can you be?

Besides bearing broad organizational responsibility for all the hundreds of Crip related murders, Tookie was convicted of murdering four people directly by his own hand. These weren’t even vaguely self-defense, like shooting a security officer during a bank robbery. They were flat assassinations of innocent, unarmed people who were not resisting.

Then this evil punk gets an outlaw chic makeover in prison to become a celebrated author and man of peace. Of course, as Dylan famously wrote, “You know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace.” I would like to specifically kick the crap out of the schmucks that nominated Tookie for Nobel prizes. Joan Baez showing up at the prison tonight wasn’t helping his cause much either.

On top of which, there have been rumblings and threats of street violence if Tookie is executed. Really though, that’s another argument FOR going ahead with the execution. What, we wouldn’t dare execute one of the worst murdering thugs going, or you’ll become violent? No, that’s not how it works. You get violent enough, you might get put down. Tookie’s going to be an object lesson; we’re going to make an example of him.

But set aside the sins of his supporters, and Tookie doesn’t look much better. He’s apparently determined to go to his grave bluntly lying. For starters, he’s never admitted to these murders that he’s been convicted of. How can you even begin to ask for mercy without even confessing to what you’ve done?

Tookie claims that he’s never killed anyone, or had anyone killed. He will not admit even to murders that have been proved beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. On what basis then can he claim to have been redeemed without repentance? It’s a non-starter.

Governor Schwarzenegger deserves extra credit for the careful attention he paid, and the specificity of his just reasoning. “Stanley Williams insists he is innocent, and that he will not and should not apologize or otherwise atone for the murders. Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption.” Exactly right, governor.

Tookie’s supposed anti-gang activism strikes me as particularly and utterly bogus, a cheap strategy to try to generate sympathy with patently inauthentic gestures. He says that he’s renounced his gang involvement, but that’s just jaws slappin’ cause he never helped authorities bust the criminals that he personally was partners with. All in all, his anti-gang efforts lack the credibility of sincerity. If he really wanted to help the kids coming up, he’d knock himself down by going yellow like Cagney’s Rocky Sullivan in Angels with Dirty Faces.

Not that this should necessarily matter. No amount of acting or even sincerely feeling sorry about it will bring that convenience store clerk back to life, or that whole family he wiped out for no reason other than that he could. I’m sure that Karla Faye Tucker was actually sincere about her jailhouse conversion to Christianity, but Howard Stern was right on the money by proposing then in response that we should “beat her to death with her goddam Bible.” You do stuff evil enough, no jailhouse conversion needs to qualify you for a reprieve.

The Eastwood Character in Unforgiven famously said, “we all got it coming.” That may be, but some of us definitely got it coming a LOT more than others.

Well then, it’s time for Tookie to pay the piper. He founded one of the ugliest, most violent street gangs in the country. I’m listening to his devotee Snoop Dogg as we count down the minutes, and it’s high time that Tookie “paid tha cost to be da bo$$.”

UPDATE: Stanley “Tookie” Williams was executed by lethal injection on 12-13-2005 at San Quentin. He was officially declared dead at 12:35 am, Pacific time.

It is finished.

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  • GoHah

    well said. I’m pro-death penalty, especially in this matter. I live in California and am very familiar with this case, and you covered pretty much all of the issues and nuances. Thanks.

  • Very good article… it all comes down to two questions: is he still accountable for his actions/legacy and has he redeemed himself? you pretty much nailed it.

  • Dave Nalle

    On reading up on the issue for my own article I was struck by the disparity between the claims of Tookie and his supporters that he was innocent, and the absolutely overwhelming evidence of his guilt.

    This is a case where they had eyewitnesses they didn’t even need to use, multiple jailhouse confessions they kept out of court, and enormous physical evidence. About the only thing they lacked was one of the victims ghosts appearing in court to accuse Tookie from beyond the grave. Tookie even threatened to have the jurors killed right infront of the judge.

    Yet this is the one execution that so many prominent figures have chosen to protest just because he wrote a few self-promoting books about gang violence. It’s truly inexplicable.


  • Nancy

    Good riddance to bad rubbish. For once, the government didn’t get the wool pulled over its eyes & err on the side of undeserved mercy.

  • Bliffle

    My take, after reading what I could find, is that Tookie was a ruthless manipulator and killer, but most importantly, an accomplished conman. I don’t see much to doubt in his conviction, most of the claims of his supporters are rebutted, and I think his ‘redemption’ is fake, a story created entirely by Williams and successfully employed to manipulate gullible people on The Outside.

    Aside from that, I think his books are a joke. They were ghost written and are impractical. Also, very expensive: $84 for a 24 page book is a lot of money for precious little. The books seem to consist of nothing but exhortations against gangs and a glossary of gang terms. The glossary is of no use to anyone except police. Oh, and potential gang members! They say that Williams would be effective as a speaker against gangs, but I think exactly the opposite. And clemency at this time would have offered an escape to gang members. And would have demonstrated the efficacy of jailhouse lawyering and conning.

    Remember, Williams had 26 years to fulltime develop his cons and excuses. The poor people who he manipulated were simply under-equipped to deal with such an onslaught of alibiing.

    As for being an ‘expert’, I don’t think so. Did Williams immerse himself in Psychology and Anthropology books and studies while in jail to find the roots of gangs? No. He spent his time rationalizing his own behaviour and manipulating others. Williams knew nothing about gangs except how to climb to the top and how to sieze power.

  • Laurel

    I’m Canadian and two of our people are being held hostage in Iraq and threatened with execution. Unlike Tookie, they haven’t killed anyone. They are aid workers. Where are the celebrities advocating on their behalf?

  • Anthony Grande

    Sorry Laurel, I don’t think Snoop Dogg, Jamie Foxx or Jesse Jackson care about anyone who isn’t a black celebrity.

  • Bliffle

    Owww! That’s cold!