Monday, December 12, 2005

Hasta La Vista, Baby

Arnold Schwarzenegger terminated Stanley 'Tookie' Williams' plea for clemency today.

So, at 12:01 am, barring some miracle stay from Justice O'Connor, this particular controversy and Williams will both be put to rest.

Call me crazy, but I'm not sold on the whole "Save Tookie" crusade. If you want to make an anti-death penalty argument, fine. That's a separate issue. But, don't bring up his saintly contributions to children's literature and his confusing nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize into the equation. There is no redemption without confession. It's plain illogical.

Adolf Hitler remains the tried and true standard used by Crim professors to pin down one's ultimate stance on the death penalty question. But, Williams has compiled a resume for an extremely compelling case in his own right.

Death Row
San Quentin Prison, Cell Block D

Gang Founder, Crips, South Central Los Angeles
Responsible for hundreds of deaths, many of them in battles with the rival Bloods for turf and control of the drug trade. Allegedly implicated in numerous senseless killings that ruined many families, particularly in African-American communities, in the name of the Crips and gang warfare.

Condemned in 1981 for gunning down convenience store clerk Albert Owens, 26, at a 7-Eleven in Whittier and killing Yen-I Yang, 76, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, 63, and the couple's daughter Yu-Chin Yang Lin, 43, at the Los Angeles motel they owned.

Among the celebrities who took up Williams' cause were Jamie Foxx and rapper Snoop Dogg, himself a former Crip.

Thus, when defense attorney Peter Fleming Jr. asks "if Stanley Williams does not merit clemency what meaning does clemency retain in this state?," I have to respond that the death penalty suffers the same devaluation if denied in this case. I acknowledge that nothing except the crimes alleged and the facts in record should go into this analysis. But, even so, the acts stand on their own as brutal, cold-blooded, and malicious. The motel murders were committed in an attempt to conceal the first killing during the robbery. This is the quintessential aggravating circumstance.

I suppose it all depends on your conception of the death penalty. Is it to punish? Is it to deter others from like acts? There's no clear answer to that question. The ex post mitigating circumstances in this case are entirely unconvincing to me. Eugene Volokh writes about the ludicrously simple procedure to be nominated for a Nobel (prior potential honorees include Mussolini, Stalin, and, yes, Hitler). His books warning youth against the pitfalls of gang life are also unavailing to me without the accompanying admittal of guilt. As far as the celebrity outcry, I don't know, maybe I'd want someone else coming to bat for me than Reverend Snoop, the rapper who penned the lyrics to Murder Was The Case and records on the Death Row label.


At 12:07 AM, Blogger Scout said...

I have been thinking this for a week and didn't know where to write it, until now. I dare not speak this aloud, as I work for and with a band of political and (oddly) religous conservitaves that throw daggers my way when I mention that I am anti death penalty. Not that all religous conservatives are odd, that is to say, but just that I find it odd that the ones that I know are so eager and willing to "throw the switch" on a fellow sinner and send him to his ultimate destiny.
Anyways, here is my thought. I am anti death penalty, which means that I think that ALL death row inmates should have their sentences commuted to life without paroll. However, if we have to pick just one death row inmate to give clemency to, Tookie aint it. Fry the son of a gun.

He never aided police in solving or preventing other Crip crimes, apparently in some twisted act of allegance. His silence alone, facilitated future deaths.
Wow. That is just an amazing act for some one who writes children's books. Furthermore, he never admitted to or apologized for any murders. I agree that there can be no true rehabilitation without confession and remorse. Tookie seemed to have neither. Most of Tookie's selfless acts were extremely self serving. His list of character references left something to be desired.
What bugs me, is that as angry as I am with all of this, I still don't think that the government has any more right to take a life than Tookie himself had. These decisions are best life to higher authorities.
That is all I have to say about that. Thanks for letting me vent.


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