Tags: Justice | for | Tookie | Williams

Justice for Tookie Williams

Saturday, 10 December 2005 12:00 AM

Stanley (Tookie) Williams deserved to die for the crimes he committed in 1979. He was convicted and sentenced to death, rightly so.

But he deserves to live if the way he has conducted himself since counts for anything – and his life is put in the balance now, not then.

As I write this, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is meeting with lawyers for Williams and the Los Angeles prosecutors' office. The defense lawyers will no doubt try to do what they have yet to do before countless judges in endless courts, which is to say raise reasonable doubt as to guilt or due process. Arnold doesn't need to put on robes for the role.

The verdict was unquestionably the right one. The man killed four people in two separate robberies. He founded one of the most violent street gangs of our time, the Crips. The jury weighed the factors and favored death. If there were mistakes in reaching that conclusion, the many courts to have reviewed this case in the last 24 years would have found them. Believe me, the Ninth Circuit, the most liberal court in the country, would have found them.

Identifying legal mistakes that no one else found is not the governor's job. The lawyers are actors in this one. Whether Williams deserves execution now is not a matter of guilt or innocence then, but of justice now and how you define it.

Most people in the debate are being charged with using Williams for one purpose or another. The NAACP, some say, is using the former gang leader turned anti-gang crusader to raise its profile and its membership. Hollywood, some say, more charitably, is using Williams to send the message that second chances are possible – or, less charitably, to celebrate killers at the expense of law-abiding citizens. Some conservatives vow on blogs never to support Arnold again unless he allows Williams to die by lethal injection on Dec. 13.

For a governor who just lost a special election and faces his first general election, the stakes in his first high-visibility commutation are enormous.

How you see justice, how you define it and how you apply it are ultimately political decisions, which is why the governor is the one who makes them, in the last analysis.

If this were a courtroom, we'd say it is up to the jury, as the political group in the courtroom, to make the decision, and we'd ask them one last time to balance all the "aggravating and mitigating circumstances" – fancy language that lets you consider the kitchen sink about a person's life when it comes to the application of the death penalty, without regard to the usual rules of evidence.

Except this time the jury only has one person, and all the evidence is the same as it was then, except for that one additional piece – the evidence of the last 26 years. And the question is, what do you do with it? Is it enough to save a man's life?

There is good reason, any prison warden will tell you, to provide incentives to men and women who face the worst sentences so that they will have reason to do well in prison. Executing Tookie Williams does not make it safer to be a prison guard. Quite the contrary.

But you still need an answer for the relatives, and that's the balance we call justice.

Here, the punishment suited the criminal 24 years ago. The question is not about what symbol that creates or what message it sends. When the issue is taking a man's life, it's not a question of symbols or messages, but justice for the individual, at the time his life is to be taken. A truly changed man should be able to tip the balance in his favor.

COPYRIGHT 2005 CREATORS SYNDICATE INC.

104

© 2019 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

   
1Like our page
2Share
Pre-2008
Stanley (Tookie) Williams deserved to die for the crimes he committed in 1979. He was convicted and sentenced to death, rightly so. But he deserves to live if the way he has conducted himself since counts for anything and his life is put in the balance now, not...
Justice,for,Tookie,Williams
640
2005-00-10
Saturday, 10 December 2005 12:00 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.
 

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved