November 6, 2005
No Clemency for Tookie
There must be a guidebook in the country's death rows about how
to dodge the lethal-injection needle. In Texas, you find God and
plead mercy; in the San Francisco Bay Area and other havens for
people who think they are enlightened liberals, you find a publisher.
If you write
books or poetry, all manner of journalists, authors and do-gooders
will turn you into a saint who is doing some good for society.
So, having been sent to death row for the brutal slaying of four
innocent people during two 1979 robberies, San Quentin Prison's
Stanley "Tookie" Williams has no shortage of champions
who believe that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should grant him clemency
and spare him his scheduled Dec. 13 execution. Why, the thug-huggers
point out, Tookie has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Or, as an Agence France Presse headline announced, "U.S.
judge sets December date to execute Nobel Prize nominee."
on this Nobel Prize wannabe: In 1979, Williams shot in the back,
twice, Albert Owens, a 26-year-old, white 7-Eleven clerk, during
a robbery. Shortly after, he robbed a motel and slaughtered three
members of an immigrant family, the Yangs.
lawyers presented an alibi defense that crumbled. Physical evidence
supported the prosecution. A jury found Williams guilty, and a
court sentenced him to death. His crimes tend to be glossed over
-- as happened in "Redemption," a Fox TV movie that
bought into the reformed Tookie line. The biopic told the story
of Williams' jailhouse conversion, which led him to co-author
a line of children's books, "Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang
supporters point to what Williams calls "The Apology,"
posted on a Tookie website. The problem is, the apology is not
for killing four innocent people -- one white and three Asian
-- but for being a co-founder of the violent Crips gang, which
has ruined "the lives of so many young people, especially
young black men who have hurt other young black men."
some problems with the Tookie hagiography. After Williams ostensibly
quit the Crips, he was stabbed by another inmate in what prison
officials believed was a fight over who would lead the Crips.
is interesting: Williams' lawyers have argued that he had suffered
organic brain damage, either when he killed Owens and the Yangs
or during his trial, which made him unable to defend himself.
It's hard to understand how a brain-damaged man could co-write
all those books.
"redemption" line is a joke. As Williams' former prosecutor,
Robert Martin, once told me, redemption requires an admission
of guilt, facing up to what you did and expressing remorse. Williams
has done none of the above, yet newspaper editorial pages (including
The San Francisco Chronicle's) and various do-gooders
(including some Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judges) have
been pushing for the governor to grant Tookie clemency.
turn the whole concept of clemency on its ear. Let me stipulate:
While I support the death penalty, I can respect those who oppose
it. But I can't respect those who lionize the most violent thugs
as if they are prize sages. My advice to the anti-execution crowd
-- and I have no doubt it will be ignored -- is to find some poor
schlub who killed in a panic and doesn't belong on death row,
and seek clemency for that person.
a cold-blooded killer on a pedestal. Don't denounce a government
killing as barbaric while you laud a cold-blooded thug. And don't
ask for clemency for a killer who won't fess up to his crimes.
co-author, Barbara Becnel, told the Los Angeles Times:
"What Stan presents is hope that they, too, can change. He
is worth far more to society alive than dead."
is worth more to society dead. The message from the Tookie-philes
is that you can kill innocent people and be a star. An execution
says you can kill innocent people and pay the price.
2005 Creators Syndicate