Monday, December 12, 2005

But... no clemency granted

And the final word is... Tookie Williams will be executed.

After being denied clemency this afternoon by Governor Schwarzenegger, Stanley Tookie Williams will be executed, after 24 years on death row, at 12:01 am on Tuesday.

After aiding the cause of helping dissuade young people from joining gangs or embracing violence, after using himself as an example of how horribly you can go wrong, after being nominated for the Nobel Prize in peace and literature over the years, Tookie Williams will be executed.

Again, there is no doubt that Tookie Williams was a bad dude in his day (may still be), that founding the Crips was a really bad idea, and that even indirectly by doing so Tookie was responsible for hundreds of deaths.

But it also took 26 years to reach this point where we, as a society, had to decide to finally take his life or admit that what we say we believe - that people do have the potential to change and be rehabilitated - is possible, and that if and when this happens, there is a higher law that says execution may no longer be the appropriate conclusion to this case.

And along the way, we held to the hypocritical position that to prove he was remorseful, and have a chance at clemency, he would have to admit to the specific crimes for which he has so long claimed innocence. Yeah, we saw how well that logic worked for Pete Rose and baseball...

Twenty six years ago, Tookie Williams most likely deserved to die. But we provided him an opportunity to live and change his life. Tookie Williams did not take that gift for granted. He made the most of it - to the betterment of society and our youth, not himself.

And now we have decided to ignore that rare change - and enforce a decision made 24 years ago without regard to these unique circumstances.

And I, as a true believer in capital punishment, still can't say I agree with our decision.



At 1:45 PM, Blogger Bob P said...

Has Mr. Williams spent a great deal of time doing all he could for the lessening of a cycle of violence he helped create? Yes, and that is an admirable thing.

But he forfeited his life the moment he chose to end the lives of others. Who can say with any certainty that those for whose deaths Mr. Williams is responsible would not have done even more good for society, had their lives not been cut short? And do we know if Tookie would have walked his recently admirable path if he'd avoided capture, trial, and sentencing to begin with?

You're right that his change of heart and good works from prison are things worthy of praise, and may guarantee him some personal consideration at the pearly gates. Given the finality of his crimes, those efforts were the least he could do.

But they do not erase his original debt to those whose futures he stole forever. And they do not absolve him of the consequences of senseless murder, regardless of how long those consequences have been delayed.


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