Sunday, December 11, 2005

Why Tookie should live

Yes, I believe in the death penalty.

There, I've said it - feel free to lob your anti-death penalty barbs my way. But I know of many cases where death is in my opinion the only appropriate and rational punishment.

The abduction, rape and murder of a child should be, I believe, punishable by death in every case. No extenuating circumstances. Hang 'em, shoot 'em, inject 'em - whatever. End of game.

In most cases of first degree (i.e. deliberate, pre-meditated, felonious) murder, I feel the same way.

And not many organizations ever seemed to love murder more than the Crips of LA. The gang we all know was founded by Stanley Tookie Williams over 25 years ago. Violent to the Nth degree, the Crips showed no mercy, and should be shown none either when prosecuted for the murders they committed.

No one is more aware of this than Tookie Williams, who has been on death row for 24 years for the murders of 4 people in 1979.

So... Tookie deserves to die for his crimes - and even he admits he's done enough bad things in his life to warrant his fate.

But something sets Tookie Williams apart (even more than his continued assertion that he was not responsible for "those" four deaths) from other convicted ex-gang member murderers: Tookie Williams is the poster child for the "Don't be like me" deterrence campaign.

In his 24 years behind bars, Tookie Williams has reformed himself, not just in words, but in deeds. His books and outspoken lectures to children and young adults about staying away from gangs and violence, punctuated hard by his personal fate behind bars forever, is the ultimate PR tool that any current law enforcement officer would love to put in the face of each street delinquent headed down the wrong path.

Let's face it, even compared to the crimes he was convicted for, Tookie Williams is more valuable to society today alive than he is dead. His execution at this point servers only one purpose - it satisfies the desire of revenge of victims still needing to feel that someone must die for the deaths of their relatives. And it makes good press for the "I'm hard as nails" prosecutors and D.A.s who believe everything is a cut and dried case.

But at this point in time that is neither justice nor is it to the betterment of society. Keeping Tookie alive on the other hand allows a necessary outreach to continue.

Killing Tookie Williams proves only that in America we care foremost about retribution (and rule of law, of course) - with no regard for the actual influence and effects of the action we are taking. Circumstantial issues are not of import.

But isn't that an odd irony here, because it was just this same circumstantial philosophy that convicted Tookie Williams - and is looking to execute him. Most of the evidence in his trial was circumstantial.

Apparently in our "society of life" circumstantial evidence can get you executed, but it can't redeem your life. Even if society is better off with you alive.

Don't get me wrong - I don't want Tookie Williams out of jail - he should be imprisoned for life. But execution seems belated and inappropriate now.

Tookie Williams's last chance is clemency from Governor Schwarzenegger. Let's see if the Terminator has learned a lesson about the value of being human - or if he believes in plodding along like a robot without a mind for humanity.

Regardless of the outcome, one thing is clear: Tookie Williams has shown that a horrible man can become a positive influence for good in the lives of young men struggling to find their way. And whether he lives past Tuesday or not, his legacy will be one that is remembered as ending on a positive path.



Post a Comment

<< Home