Stanley Tookie Williams
Many of you are probably unfamiliar with the name Stanley Tookie Wiliams. Mr. Williams is currently incarcerated here in California. He is slated to be executed in a couple of weeks. He is one of the founders of the Crips and was sentenced to death for the murders of four people.
Many people have argued that Williams should be granted clemency. The arguments are based upon a couple basic elements.
1) The claim that Mr. Williams has turned his life around and has been a positive force in helping others to turn their lives around.
2) The claim that he was framed, received unsuitable legal counsel and or was placed in prison due to racial issues.
3) Their opposition to the death penalty based upon principle and not upon a belief that Williams is special. Rather they do not believe that the state should ever be given the authority to execute someone.
My off the cuff response to each point. If we accept the judgement of the court Mr. Williams murdered four people in 1979. For the past 26 years he has done what they could not do, he has lived. How many people miss these four people. How many family and friends were robbed of the opportunity to share their lives and love with them because he murdered them.
Beyond that what do you think the founder of a gang is like. He was not a nice man and he has plenty to answer for aside from the murders he committed.
As for the claims that he was framed I haven’t seen enough evidence to prove that is the case. Jesse Jackson made the specious claims that he might have been convicted because of a dearth of Blacks on the jury. As was pointed out that is a straw man argument and a red herring.
What this really makes me think about is this. There are some things that never leave you, no matter what you do the consequences of these acts follow you forever.
If you murder someone that is something that never goes away. No matter what you do the spectre of that murder will stay with you. Now I can create many scenarios in which one could argue that there were mitigating factors but this is not the kind of situation that lends itself to that.
For example if you got into a bar fight with someone and killed them there might be something there. Let’s say that during the fight you pushed the other person and as a result they stumbled backwards and struck their head on a rock killing them. That could be classified as murder, but what is different here is these murders were committed during robberies and that is significant.
I am not sure that you can do anything to ever square things. You can certainly devote your life to helping people and try hard to make the world a better place, but it doesn’t change the fact that you are a murderer.
So the question is, does the state have the moral authority to execute people.
-Ann November 25, 2005 at 5:13 am
I lived in Illinois for 8 years, where they discovered they had a bit of a problem with their death row. Namely, a lot of the guys on it were not guilty of the crimes that carried the death penalty. After having more guys exonerated by DNA evidence than actually executed, the then-gov. George Ryan did a mass-commutation to clear death row.
This is always going to be the problem – human justice is inexact at best and deeply, dangerously flawed at worst. Even a well-working system starts to crumble when you add possible prejudice, ineffective counsel, and other factors.
So no, I don’t think the state should have the power to take a life. I don’t think the state has the means to make just determinations and I further think the taking of a life serves no rational purpose. I don’t really think the death penalty serves as any sort of deterrent and certainly, we could sit here all day and cite examples of countries w/o the death penalty who have a lower per capita rate of murder than the US.
The only purpose it serves is punishment of the eye-for-an-eye variety. I don’t believe that death is a worse punishment than life in jail with no possibility for parole. Especially in US jails, where the conditions aren’t exactly Disneyland.
Jack's Shack November 24, 2005 at 6:52 pm
If I understand you correctly what you are really saying is that the state should not have the power to end life because mistakes could be made.
Most of the time I tend to lean towards life in prison because I agree with you about it being a more difficult punishment. I am not convinced that the death penalty is a deterrent, but there are cases I think where it absolutely should be implemented such as in Q’s example below.
Stephen (aka Q) November 24, 2005 at 5:22 pm
In principle, I could support the death penalty. The problem, in practice, is the possibility of convicting and executing an innocent person.
In Canada, we have had a series of convictions overturned recently. David Milgard spent 23 years in prison before he was exonerated; Donald Marshall, 11. Their stories and two other such cases are summarized here.
With DNA evidence, or something to absolutely establish guilt, I might still be persuaded to support the death penalty. If (God forbid!) I should ever be in the position of having a loved one murdered, I would find it galling that the murderer lived on when someone I loved was gone forever.
I think I could pull the switch on Paul Bernardo myself. Bernardo was responsible for a series of rapes in the Toronto area. Then he and his girlfriend, Karla Homolka, raped and inadvertently killed Homolka’s sister; and held two other teenagers captive to torture, rape, and eventually kill them.
There’s no doubt about his guilt since he videotaped the proceedings. The parents of Kristen French and Leslie Mahaffy have had to relive the event again and again through a series of court proceedings.
Is there any reason for Bernardo’s life to continue?
The Misanthrope November 24, 2005 at 3:37 pm
I am for life in prison, which I think is more difficult than death. Now again, if he killed someone I loved, I would want him tortured on top of it.
James Manning November 24, 2005 at 1:53 pm
i am not so against putting tookie to death as i am against granting the states the authority to do so. i’ve heard the arguments against putting the man to death but the problem with making an individual the face of a movement is that the flaws of that individual evntually become the flaws of the argument. Tookie is or was a good person. however it seems as though he has lived his life trying to make up for those past sins. you can never do enough to make up for the loss of life but at least he is trying.
but the fact remains that the state should not have the power to take a life. especially in a corrupt justice system. and even if you say that it is not corrupt, it is ran by humans and eventually a human will make a mistake. and it is one thing for the state to make a mistake and send your social security check to the wrong address. but something different to make a mistake and kill an innocent person.