Stanley “Tookie” Williams is doomed to die Dec. 13, save a Hollywood-style last-minute intervention by a Hollywood governor.
The co-founder of the Crips street gang, on death row since 1981, has spent the last decade claiming his own redemption, and working from behind bars to steer kids away from the violent life he once embraced.
That Williams has never taken responsibility for the four murders he was convicted of committing is beyond troublesome and an insult to the victims’ families. But the point is moot.
Capital punishment is not only morally wrong, it is a government stance that is not a deterrent to crime. Murder rates are higher in death penalty states, proving the archaic eye-for-an-eye justice system is not working.
It also revives the debate: Are prisons intended for reform, or simple punishment? If Williams isn’t reformed, he’s spent an awful lot of time and effort “faking it” on his nine books, youth outreach and other gang-deterrence activities. Even though Americans’ support of the death penalty is slipping, Gov. Schwarzenegger has much to lose politically by showing mercy to a convicted killer. But this situation is, quite literally, life-and-death, and the often-laughable governor holds someone’s life in his hands. To take no action is to allow a man to die—something that must weigh heavily even on the Terminator’s conscience. To Schwarzenegger’s credit, he’s scheduled a clemency hearing for Dec. 8, the day this paper comes out.
Williams, who was, like about 150 people a year, nominated for Nobel Peace Prize, is lauded as a hero by inner-city educators and others, with hundreds of anecdotal examples of his message hitting home in a positive way. Does that negate his crimes, and his role in launching one of the most notorious gangs in the nation? No. However, with clemency, Williams will stay locked up and presumably continue his anti-gang advocacy. Without clemency, he dies and those laudable efforts die with him.
The governor should be strong, do the right thing, and commute William’s sentence to life without the possibility of parole.