And they killed him

As a select handful of witnesses watched, convicted murderer and anti-gang crusader Stanley “Tookie” Williams was put to death Dec. 13 in a chamber at San Quentin. In the cosmic irony that is the death penalty, the government punished a killer by killing him.

Williams, convicted in 1979 of four murders, eventually turned his back on his former gang life and supposedly inspired thousands of young people to eschew street violence, drugs and everything else that he and the Crips street gang he co-founded stood for. He preached redemption, but no number of anti-gang books and good works could atone for the deaths of four innocent people, at least in the state’s mind. Williams never admitted to the murders and in the end that was cited by the governor as one of the reasons not to grant a pardon, despite the positive things he was doing from his prison cell.

Now Williams is dead, along with his potential to steer children away from gang life. As guards readied Williams for the execution, some witnesses described him as shaking his head in a “for shame, for shame” motion. For shame indeed. A civilized nation does not have a death penalty. On Dec. 13, our nation revealed itself as shamefully uncivilized.

And it’s our nation, including the governor who refused to spare Williams’ life, that should be asking for redemption now.