Monday, December 12, 2005

Clemency Denied to Stanley "Tookie" Williams

Governor denies clemency for ex-gang leader.

I've been waiting on this news all week. I even joked to someone that I planned to write about Tookie Williams on the day that the Governator denied clemency. However, now that the time is here, my heart hurts and I can't bring myseld to say much of anything. Therefore, I'll post Trey Ellis' editortial from HuffingtonPost. com.

Trey Ellis: W.W.S.D. (What Will Schwarzenegger Do?)

Back in May, the first thing I ever wrote for the Huffington Post was on the fate of Stanley “Tookie” Williams. I’m hoping that what I write here tonight will not be one of my last posts on him.

Back in May I had no idea that so much global attention would shine on the fate of one man. I also had no idea that capital punishment would still be such a divisive issue in a civilized, Western democracy.

The right-wing hate radio yahoos just don’t seem to get it. They claim that only out-of-touch limousine liberals, Hollywood (read gay, Jewish, commie) and the NAACP-Amnesty-ACLU cabal care to keep Mr. Williams alive. What they don’t get is that those protesters in front of San Quentin, overwhelmingly black, come from the very neighborhoods poisoned by the evil that Mr. Williams is responsible for. They understand that he serves them better alive, preaching to all who will listen that gang life destroys. If you live in a gang-infested neighborhood you already know death well. About a murder a day occurs in South Central LA every day of the year. Nobody needs to see another dead black man to know that gang life leads to death, either by the police, the state, or, more likely, by a rival gangmember. Mr. Williams’ conversion, as the general, not just a soldier, is a powerful tool in a desperate war. His own community realizes that and asks the Governor to let him keep working behind bars.

All the evidence in the case against Mr. Williams is circumstantial and all of the witnesses against him suspect (and felons themselves, the key witness currently in jail in Canada for armed robbery). Robert Clark, a black man convicted of rape in Georgia was released only last week after twenty-three years in jail for a crime that DNA evidence proved he didn’t commit. Even if Mr. Williams had not turned his life around in prison there is still enough reasonable doubt surrounding his case to lock him up forever instead of killing him.

Though the Williams case has been much in the news, one group has been noticeably silent. Conservative evangelical Christians and their much touted “Culture of Life” have said hardly a word about him. There might be great debate at whether life begins at conception or several weeks after but there is absolutely no debate whatsoever that life ends after a 50 ccs of potassium chloride are injected into your veins, stopping your heart.

The Vatican, at least, is consistently pro-life, both anti-abortion and anti-capital punishment. Some right-wing American Evangelicals, however, like to torture the crystal clear teachings of the New Testament to somehow make it all right for the state to kill. I guess they skip over passages like this:

Matthew 5:38-41 -- You have heard it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.

Luke 6:27, 37 -- Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.... Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

W.W.J.D.? You don’t even have to ask.

Though I have not been a fan of Governor Schwarzenegger I have been encouraged by the thoroughness and the seriousness with which he seems to be deliberating this case. Another governor, this one from Texas, was asked on a right-wing radio program what were the last words of a woman, Karla Faye Tucker, before his state executed her. That governor sadistically affected a woman’s voice to mock the 23-year-old born-again and whined, “Please don’t kill me!” Now he’s our President.

And by the way, here are Ms. Tucker’s real final words:

"I would like to say to all of you, the Thornton family and Jerry Dean's family that I am so sorry. I hope God will give you peace with this….Baby, I love you. Ron, give Peggy a hug for me. Everybody has been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I'm going to be face-to-face with Jesus now….Warden Baggett, thank all of you so much. You have been so good to me. I love all of you very much. I will see you all when you get there. I will wait for you."


Blogger A Christian Prophet said...

The Holy Spirit's message on The Christian Prophet blog today says that as long as Tookie lives on earth he pays the price for his mistakes, but when no longer living on earth he is totally forgiven and free.

12/12/2005 3:24 PM  
Blogger foxxxylove said...

I might be inclined to agree with you, Prophet. Perhaps you should tell that to the millions of death penalty supporters. They might feel differently if they thought convicted murderers would be absolved and cease to suffer after execution.

However, people have rallied behind Tookie because of the good that he can do in life. He's been instrumental in speaking out against the gang that he started in his youth. There aren't too many people ex-gang members out there who are unafraid to speak out against gang violence.

Tookie may or may not have committed the murders he was convicted for, but as a gang leader, it's hard to argue that he's never killed. The point, however, is that in his 20+ years on death row, he's worked to change his life by changing the lives of others.

In a justice system based on retribution rather than rehabilitation, Tookie Williams is the absolute best that we can hope for. Not only has he attempted to repay society through his deeds, but he's also improved upon himself. He is what the American justice system should strive for.

However, the justice system has ignored those efforts and has chosen to see the execution through. That leads me to my last 2 points.

(1) Kanye was right, except Bush isn't the only one who doesn't care about Black people. If the powers that be were really interested in ending gang violence, they would let Tookie live. However, those same powers have too much to gain by the proliferation of gangs. After all, the "tough on crime" stance is what get them elected in the first place.

(2)I'm not saying that Tookie would end all gang violence, but at least he was high profile enough (inside and outside of the gang world) to be heard. His efforts were recognized by throughout the world. However, there will now be one less voice.

Perhaps it's selfish on my part to want Tookie to continue his work on earth, especially when his suffering would end, as you've suggested, with his last breath. However, there is a world of good he could do while living. In death, he's just another black man in the system that was put to death.

12/12/2005 4:34 PM  

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