Monday, December 12, 2005

Washington Post: Schwarzenegger Denies Clemency for Williams

Stanley "Tookie" Williams will be executed Tuesday morning at 12:01AM. Governor Shwarzenegger denied Mr. Williams request for clemency. The Washington Post has more.
With just hours to go before Stanley Tookie Williams was to be put to death, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied his plea for clemency, thus allowing the execution of perhaps the nation's most prominent death row inmate to proceed at San Quentin's death chamber at 12:01 a.m.

Williams, 51, who co-founded the notorious Crips gang in Los Angeles, was convicted in 1981 of four murders committed during two separate robberies in 1979 in southern California.

The burly ex-gang leader, who has always maintained his innocence, has gained prominence advocating against gang violence, both in a series of children's books and with separate writings appealing directly to gangs. He had been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize five years in a row.

But Schwarzenegger, in a five-page statement of his decision, said that "Williams' case has been thoroughly reviewed in the 24 years since his convictions and death sentence. In all, Williams' case has been the subject of at least eight substantive judicial opinions. . . . The claim that Williams received an unfair trial was the subject of this extensive litigation in the state and federal courts. There is no reason to disturb the judicial decisions that uphold the jury's decisions that he is guilty of these four murders and should pay with his life."

The governor's decision came despite scores of appeals to spare him over the last several weeks, coming from an international contingent of Nobel Prize winners, religious leaders and celebrities, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sister Helen Prejean, the author of "Dead Man Walking," and many others.

One of the main rallying points for those seeking clemency was Williams' apparent redemption--his rejection of the gang life and appeals to gangs to stop their violence, as in a "Peace Protocol" that he wrote a decade ago.

But state law enforcement officials, including the Correctional Officers Association, one of the most powerful unions in the state, were united in their condemnation of Williams and had fervently appealed to Schwarzenegger to allow the execution.
The frenzy that has surrounded this story should sicken the heart of any Fool. The Hollywoodistas have come out to canonize their latest victim. The usual suspects utter the same banalities about the redemption of a convicted killer that hasn't admitted to his crime. The candle-bearing vigil-goers will splash over video-bytes and front page photo spots across the country.

All of it obscures the clear truth of the matter. And the truth is this: California will execute a condemned criminal when it doesn't have to. Mr. Williams would face life without the possibility of parole had the Governator commuted the killer's sentence. That would have given the Crips founder the opportunity to spend the rest of his life behind bars, trying to prevent other young people from repeating his tragic life. Even if he denies his complicity in the crimes for which he'll be executed, he has certainly given evidence that he turned from his gansta ways. Could he manage to accomplish some good as a deposit on the debt for which he can't possibly repay? Perhaps.

The state of California will not afford him that opportunity. Even though he poses no threat to the very life of society, Stanley "Tookie" Williams will die for his crime. Even though he has made great efforts, since his incarceration, to ensure that no one else follows his terrible example, Mr. Williams will be executed. Even though California can serve justice by ensuring that Mr. Williams dies behind bars, apart from any hope of freedom or family or life in society, he will become the 12th person California has put to death.

The Hollywoodistas and Reasonable heart-bleeders will mouth-foam before the cameras all day long. Their embarrassing advocacy does not diminish the legitimacy of questioning California's death penalty, as practiced by the state. If we continue to employ capital punishment when society does not require it for its own preservation, we contribute to the Culture of Death that allows the empowered to consider the powerless as less than human. Is that how we hope to accomplish justice?

It takes great Faith to live in communion with Christ. It takes monumental faith to live our social lives in communion with him. Yet, if he truly is the Life, what choice do we have? Flirting with the darkness in order to "serve justice" makes a mockery of justice and ourselves. Let us place our trust in the Light and safeguard all of our dignity. For the measure by which we measure we'll soon experience being measured upon us.