Tookie Williams and Clemency:

Proponents of the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams are making the argument that, no matter what Williams has done in prison, his conviction of an outrageous crime (a quadruple homicide) means that he ought to be executed. I disagree. Michelle Malkin and Tookie Watch both present extensive evidence about why Williams is a poor candidate for executive clemency. There is, at the least, some reason to wonder about the sincerity of Williams' alleged redemption. There is also the fact that he had never admitted his guilt for the homicides nor apologized to the victims' families.

That said, I think it is mistaken to say that a person who has committed a heinous crime which would merit execution or life in prison should always be subjected to such punishment. Consider, for example, the story of Alessandro Serenelli, who in 1902 murdered an 11-year-old Italian girl named Maria Goretti because she was resisting his attempt to rape her. As I've written elsewhere,

Unrepentant, Alessandro was convicted, and sentenced to 30 years in prison. [Since he was a minor, that was the maximum possible sentence.] In his eighth year of imprisonment, he had a vision of Maria. He saw a garden where a young girl, dressed in white, was gathering lilies. She smiled, and came near him, and encouraged him to accept an armful of the lilies. As he accepted them, each lily transformed into a still white flame. Maria then disappeared.

Alessandro's conversion was complete. When was released from prison after serving 27 years, his first act was to travel to Maria's mother to beg her forgiveness. He then found job as a gardener in a Capuchin monastery, a job he held for the rest of his life.

Along with 30 other witnesses, Alessandro testified as to Maria's sanctity during her Cause of Beatification. In 1950, she was canonized in a ceremony attended by a quarter million people, including her mother, the first mother ever to see her child canonized.

Marie Goretti is among the most famous saints in Italy; the story of Maria and Alessandro was the subject of one of the most-watched television programs in Italy in 2003.

It's possible to make arguments pro and con about whether Tookie Williams has enough in common with Alessandro Serenelli to be considered for clemency. I don't think so, but I can understand why other people might. My broader point is that even if (or, especially if), a person supports the death penalty or life without parole, it is possible that — at least in unusual cases — there can be post-conviction facts which might lead an executive with clemency power to decide to reduce the sentence for a prisoner guilty of an atrocious homicide.

A minority of Americans do not believe in the possibility of supernatural facts, and a great many Americans have an understandable skepticism about the convicted murderers whom Hollywood sometimes elects as special objects of sympathy. I hope, however, that public opposition to clemency for Stanley Williams does not degenerate into a broader attack on the practice of executive clemency, a practice which is a very ancient and honorable element of the checks and balances in a criminal justice system, and which has been greatly eroded in recent decades because governors and presidents fear being unfairly tarred as soft on crime.

Defending the Indefensible:
Of course, your argument could also support the abolition of the death penalty altogether, being as we can never know what is truly in a person's heart, regardless of any statements made claiming a conversion experience.

Nor should such conversion have to be Christion, as such a qualification would probably be some sort of establishment in violation of the first amendment.

Personally I don't believe that killing is moral unless it is strictly defensive. Retaliatory killing is still murder if a non-state actor does it, and should not be permissible for the state, even assuming that the wrong person is never killed for a crime he or she did not commit.
11.28.2005 3:41am
Defending the Indefensible:
11.28.2005 3:43am

Personally I don't believe that killing is moral unless it is strictly defensive.

Of course this depends on your definition of defensive then. One could argue that there always exists a means to defend yourself without killing, and in this case then killing is not moral period.

Consider this too. Once a murderer has murdered a victim, the victim obviously has failed at defending him/herself. Consider the possibility that the victim owned a gun and had been sucessful at defending him/herself, and killed the would-be murderer in the process. In case one, the murderer was successful and if he does not attack anyone else, his life is saved. In case two, the murderer was not sucessful and his own life was lost in the process. Is it moral that possibility of death only exists if the murderer fails?

11.28.2005 4:06am
jgshapiro (mail):
My broader point is that even if (or, especially if), a person supports the death penalty or life without parole, it is possible that — at least in unusual cases — there can be post-conviction facts which might lead an executive with clemency power to decide to reduce the sentence for a prisoner guilty of an atrocious homicide.

Can we not agree that the minimum standard for clemency is an acknowledgment by the condemned that he committed the crime and is remorseful? Yes, that by itself is not enough, but it should be a necessary precondition without which there is no need for further inquiry. Since that has not happened here, who cares what Tookie has done post-conviction? He has yet to admit to his crimes, let alone apologize for them.
11.28.2005 4:29am
Jeroen Wenting (mail):
I'm extremely sceptical about such "conversions".
Maybe in some cases it truely happens and the person becomes a monk (as did Allessandro, apparently).
I'd venture that if just claiming you'd seen the light that your act was wrong and that you're extremely sorry you did it gets you an "out of jail free card", there'd be tons of crocodile tears shed by people seeing an easy way out of a lengthy prison term (or death row).
Who'd be the judge to decide which of them is real and which is not? Most would be fakes, many would seek out the people who put them in prison in the first place and seek revenge (remember we're talking about violent criminals here, not shoplifters or people failing to pay a parking ticket in time).
More damning, we'd be linking religion with the criminal system, effectively saying that people who are religious enough can get out of prison because of that.
11.28.2005 4:58am
Wintermute (www):
Tookie has refused to abandon omerta, and this is not setting a good example. None of these pleaders for Tookie have related how the family and close friends feel about clemency. In my book, they count a lot.
11.28.2005 5:40am
Brett Bellmore (mail):
Willingness to accept the consequences of one's act is one of the characteristics of repentance. The notion that someone who refuses to even admit they committed an act has repented for it is then somewhat contradictory.
11.28.2005 6:51am (mail):
Pretty Much what Brett said: The main difference bewteen Tookie and Alessandro, is that Alessandro repented, apologized and admitted what he had done. Tookie has done no such thing, and wont in the future, however short his future is....
11.28.2005 7:04am
Cornellian (mail):
Apparently he's done a lot of good work while in prison, and commuting his sentence would mean life in prison without parole instead of execution and would not mean being set free.

However, his failure to apologize for or even admit to the murders for which he was convicted would seem to preclude any conclusion that he is sincerly repentant. Absent that, I don't see the case for clemency.

If he had made an admission and sincere apology, this would be a much harder case.
11.28.2005 7:26am
Fishbane (mail):
A minority of Americans do not believe in the possibility of supernatural facts [...]

I'm surprised more people haven't picked up on this.

Is law to somehow arbitrate based on whether a supernatural being chooses to grant visions, or something? What, exactly, is going on here? Is this some argument for what would amount to the ultimate executive clemency? If so, why require a mere mortal to affirm it? Is every governer now a little Pope, deciding which inmates have obveserved miracles, and which hasn't?
11.28.2005 8:31am
JohnO (mail):
If you assume that Tookie did it, he's playing ti smart by refusing to acknowledge his guilt. Then he can build on a coalition of the people who are focused more on his alleged redemption as well as those who think he might not have done it.

What sank Pete Rose was that he admitted he did it. Once he did that, he lost the portion of the public who believed he never bet on baseball. All he was left with then was the people who assumed he did it and thought his on-field accomplishments ought to put him in the Hall of Fame.

If Tookie admits it now, doesn't Schwarzenegger say, "how sincere could his redemption be when he lied about his guilt for decades. That would be the end of the story.
11.28.2005 8:59am
DRJ (mail):
Ditto on almost everything said here:
No admission of guilt + no remorse = no clemency.

As to whether this case will adversely affect public opinion of clemency: I wouldn't worry. Americans are amazingly empathetic and compassionate. We cheer for underdogs. We agonize over all sorts of things, including Abu Ghraib and Tookie Williams. People will only oppose clemency if it's routinely granted to people who don't deserve it.
11.28.2005 9:11am
thedaddy (mail):
Sorry Dave, "tookie" (what a name!) is just scum and derserves to get what he paid for. His end will have only positive effects on the world and anyone who sheds a tear for him including his own releatives are depraved.

The more people like him that are executed the better off we all are.

If that monk guy had been executed as he should have been no one would be worse off. The saint making of his victim is no benefit to society or his victim.

Everyone who kills another in cold blood deserves to be removed from this earth.

I often wonder why killer suspects are prevented from commitiing suicide while in custody (Yeah even before trial). It seems like such a natural solution to the problem at hand.

We should probably provide a suicide kit in each cell, after all the killer had no compunction killing someone else maybe he/she would do us all a favor and kill them selves.

But then what would the apelate(sp?) bar do with all that extra time on their hands?

Oh well you can't have everything

11.28.2005 9:16am
A person is convicted of mudering FOUR people. Sentenced to death.

What is the circumstance to cummute his sentence from death, to life in prison? Have not seen a single fact mentioned here that would allow this change of sentence.
11.28.2005 9:50am
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
I see a big difference here. Alessandro Serenelli's murder of Maria was almost invariably not one of premeditation. Maybe the rape was, but probably not the resulting murder. And, of course, he showed a lot of remorse.

Tookie was convicted of brutally killing multiple people on multiple occasions. As a founder of the Cripes gang, it is proable that this was only the tip of the iceberg. In any case, there is no indication that he has any remorse whatsoever for the brutal murders. That is where everyone should start.

And I think that you have to add in his founding of the Crips gang. That gang probably has responsibility for killing thousands more since the time that Tookie helped found it. Shouldn't he bear at least some responsibility for those killings too?
11.28.2005 9:56am
Anderson (mail) (www):
I don't quite get the assumption that admission of guilt is necessary for clemency.

Isn't one very important use of clemency to avoid the risk of executing a potentially innocent person?

If I were a state governor and there were somebody who seemed to be very sincere in denying his guilt, that would be very hard to handle. There are too many cases where the protestations of innocence turned out to be true, after it was too late.

I'm not against the death penalty, but it should be reserved for cases where there's literally no reasonable doubt---which, sorry to say, is not really the standard applied in our courtrooms, whatever the judges may tell the jury.
11.28.2005 10:13am
cirby (mail):
My objection to the death penalty is, well, that people just aren't that smart or competent. There are way, waaay too many cases of "solid" death penalty cases that turned out to be bogus, because someone lied about evidence (a police officer swearing in court that a fingerprint had to be on a door at a particular time, when it's not possible to tell), or someone just plain screwed up ("they all look alike").

Sure, you can get some cases where the evidence and witnesses are completely overwhelming, but the problem is that there's always a wide gray area where someone could get convicted on less-thorough investigation (and we keep turning those up each year).

I much prefer the "lock them in a cell forever" side of punishment than the "let them go out fast" way. What we really need is a clean, clear, absolute "life in prison," where you only let them out if you find they didn't really do the crime.

Because you can't apologize to a guy you executed and let him out of the grave...
11.28.2005 10:22am
jimbino (mail):

No admission of guilt + no remorse = no clemency.

Y'all are nuts! Clemency or any other act that is predicated on either admission of guilt or remorse is both illogical and inhumane, as it favors the guilty over the innocent. If the Romans had tried that nonsense on Jesus, y'all would see the light. Indeed, it seems that admission of guilt and remorse are the very two things clemency should never be based on. Clemency should probably not be based on good behavior either, since good behavior is much easier for the guilty than for the innocent wrongly condemned.

Both "visions" and "conversion," being mere fantasies of the religious, are never grounds for clemency, as they are totally lacking in objective reality, and would discriminate against perfectly good folks like Voltaire and Alfred Dreyfus.
11.28.2005 10:50am
BruceM (mail) (www):
To all those who say admission of guilt plus apology is or should be a prerequisite for executive clemency, what if the person really is innocent and was wrongfully convicted? Should he have to lie about committing the crime and being sorry for doing so in order to become a candidate for clemency?

Also note that the longer a person sits on death row the greater the chances are of the person "redeeming himself" so as to potentially qualify for clemency. The flipside of this is that those opposed to clemency will pass laws limiting appeals and will ultimately cumulate in the "Speedy Death Penalty Act" which will certainly be an abomination of justice.
11.28.2005 10:56am
Al Maviva (mail):
hey, so he founded the Crips. Big deal. That never hurt anybody, right?

The fact that International Answer is on the front lines of this protest makes me reflexively against it. One must remember that their corporate ownership split from the Socialist International based on that group's insufficient support for Stalin's murderous supression of the Hungarian uprising.
11.28.2005 10:59am
djd (mail):
This guy is a singularly unappealing candidate for executive clemency.He and his network of supporters are transparently gaming the system, especially with the Nobel garbage.
11.28.2005 11:08am
Houston Lawyer:
Clemency can be granted to those who continue to maintain their innocence, but that clemency will generally be based upon new evidence that tends to exonerate the convict. We can't require innocent convicts to confess to something they didn't do, but we're not likely to grant them clemency absent such a confession.
11.28.2005 11:26am
Ken Willis (mail):
Redemption and forgiveness of the monstrous acts committed by "Tookie" must come, if at all, from God. Therefore, the most humane thing now is to allow his lawful execution to go forward without further delay so that he may get his reward, whatever that may be.
11.28.2005 11:37am
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Maria Goretti! The Old Nuns used to refer to her on a regular basis.

It confused us, since all they would say was that a wealthy landowner's son had approached her to commit a sin of impurity and killed her when she refused.

In second grade in those days we had only a vague understanding of "sin of impurity." We puzzled that anyone would have killed a person over refusal to listen to a fart joke.
11.28.2005 11:38am
I'm not sure why people, especially people who believe in an afterlife of some sort, think that execution is the greatest punishment that we can mete out. I think imprisonment is far greater punishment than execution. Execute someone, their suffering stops. They are free from the imprisonment. If people really want Williams punished, life in prison is a greater punishment, in my mind.
11.28.2005 11:40am
Can we not agree that the minimum standard for clemency is an acknowledgment by the condemned that he committed the crime and is remorseful?

And what if they truly didn't commit the crime? I don't enough about Williams' case to know if he did or did not, but there have been many many instances where we have incarcerated innocent people (a fact that I attribute to our loss of the innocent until proven guilty attitude in our justice system, and our willingness to let a guilty man go free rather than imprison a free man). Indeed, how many dozens of death row inmates have since been released because they were proven innocent of the crime they were convicted of?

There is no doubt Williams is/was a bad man, a career criminal and thug. But he should be accorded the same rights that we should accord all persons in our criminal justice system. And there are legitimate (given recent admissions of former LA County DA employees) questions aboutthe make up of juries during the time he was tried.
11.28.2005 11:45am
Ken Willis (mail):
See this for the facts of what "Tookie" did to get himself the death penalty:


and this for a point-by-point analysis of the evidence supporting those facts:

11.28.2005 12:00pm
Ken Willis (mail):
The foregoing ain't pretty but the links do work.
11.28.2005 12:02pm
Ken Willis (mail):



Think I got it this time.
11.28.2005 12:06pm
Justin (mail):
I'd like to see one conservative (hell, one "anti-death penalty" conservative will do) come out (and I mean speak up) for saving the life (not letting out of jail, just saving the life) of someone upon which the arguments are very strong that he is doing and will continue to do good work in helping save lives and lower crime here and abroad.

When I hear a Ramesh Ponnuru or a Katherine Lopez claim that they don't follow marching orders lockstep because they are against the death penalty, it always strikes me as a canard, like saying that Jerry Falwell is against ANWR or something equally irrelevant to their identity. Although they seem to be able to vocalize their anti-death penalty identity quite strongly when neccesary (i.e., when attacking Democratic Catholics), when it actually could do some good, they all get laryngitis.
11.28.2005 12:09pm
civil truth (mail):
There are two types of clemency getting confused here in the discussion.

1) The first clemency type is the response when the justice system has gone wrong that can't be otherwise fixed. This covers the case of wrongful convictions or some other new evidence that casts substantial doubt on the original sentence. Obviously, defendents in this case would not be admitting guilt since they were innocent.

2) The second clemency is where a person is rightfully convicted but the government representative decides to give mercy, to spare the defendent the full consequences of the original sentence. This can be partial (e.g. commutation of sentence) or full (e.g. pardon). This type of clemency should reasonably depend on the defendent acceding to the justice of his conviction (i.e. I did the crime, I deserve the time) and expressing contrition as necessary (but not sufficient) conditions.

Regarding "Tookie" I seem to be hearing both arguments. If the argunent is that he is innocent and worthy of the first type of clemency, then the focus should be on the evidence and correctness of his conviction. If rather his post-conviction behavior is being argued as grounds for the second type of clemency, then it is also relevant to consider other post-conviction behavior including admission of guilt, contrition, adherence to omerta, as well as the opinions of the victims' relatives. The problem I'm hearing is that these two lines of argument are being commingled.
11.28.2005 12:36pm
The Editors, American Federalist Journal (mail) (www):
Defending the Indefensible said,
Retaliatory killing is still murder if a non-state actor does it...

And imprisonment is kidnapping if a non-state actor does it. If you're going to argue there's no difference between actions by the state and actions by individuals, then you must be against the state putting people in prison.
11.28.2005 12:49pm
Andy Freeman (mail):
> Apparently he's done a lot of good work while in prison

Does that work include ratting out Crips? Or did he just write a children's book plagarizing McGruff the Crime Dog?
11.28.2005 12:54pm
Funny, as a side note, the extreme veneration heaped on Maria Goretti has always made me uncomfortable. Her sainthood is based on the fact that she chose to die rather than "sacrifice her purity" (as it's usually stated). It's news to me that a woman becomes less pure and less holy if she is raped. Am I the only one who thinks this tale has disturbing implications and who wouldn't exactly cite this girl as a model for a daughter to emulate, even if I were (still) a devout Catholic? "Give me virginity, or give me death"?!

[DK: I agree with you about the "Give me virginity, or give me death" angle. For me, what makes her interesting is her heroic capacity for forgiveness. She forgave Alessandro on her deathbed, after going through surgery--without anesthesia(!)--that failed to save her life. Plus the second round of forgiveness eight years later--which wouldn't be a fact that a government official could verify, although the subsequent change in Alessandro would be verifiable.]
11.28.2005 1:02pm
The Drill SGT (mail):

One minor nit. As I understand it, those 4 murders were 2 distinct incidents not a single outrageous crime.

Williams was convicted of murdering four innocent bystanders with a sawed-off shotgun in 1979. There was nothing peaceful or compassionate about the way [Albert Owens], Thsai-Shai Yang, Yen-I Yang and Yee Chen Lin died. Owen[s] was a white teen-age clerk at a 7-11 convenience store, shot twice in the back of the head — execution-style — as he lay unarmed on the floor during a hold-up. A witness testified that Williams mocked the gurgling sounds Owen[s] made as he lay dying. "You should have heard the way he sounded when I shot him," the witness quoted Williams.

The Yangs were Taiwanese immigrants who, along with their daughter Yee Chen Lin, were gunned down during a motel robbery two weeks after Owen[s] died. Half of the daughter's face was blown off by the shotgun blasts, former L.A. County Deputy District Attorney Robert Martin told me in an interview this week. Williams called them "Buddhaheads," Martin recounted, and robbed them of petty cash.

Then of course is the larger, un-indicted crime of founding the Crips and that trail of blood spread across the country.

I spare no tears for Tookie.
11.28.2005 1:03pm
jgshapiro (mail):
And what if they truly didn't commit the crime?

That is justification for a pardon, not clemency. If he didn't do it, he shouldn't be locked up for even one more day, let alone the rest of his life w/o parole. Moreover, his conviction should be expunged and he should get some sort of compensation for the time he wrongfully spent behind bars.

But I see precious few people (even in Hollywood, which has adopted his cause) arguing for this. No one seems to give any credence to the argument that he didn't kill the four people in question. The facts are apparently pretty clear on this. His is not an argument based on innocence, but based on redemption.
11.28.2005 1:44pm
Just one more minor nit. Not a single soul has claimed this non -being is innocent of the crimes he was convicted of. what he did after his acts of taking 4 lives serves no point in this debate. Let him make his peace with his maker, however this scum deems to define it.
11.28.2005 2:47pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
Tookie was convicted of brutally killing multiple people on multiple occasions. As a founder of the Cripes gang, it is proable that this was only the tip of the iceberg.

Good point, it's entirely possible that he's committed far more murders than the four that we know about.
11.28.2005 4:46pm
The Drill SGT (mail):
Obviously the children's books weren't effective on some of his kids:

Stanley Williams Jr., 30, is currently serving a 16-year sentence for second-degree murder. He's an active Crips member and remains housed in administrative segregation, Crittendon said.

'Tookie' Williams' Son Allegedly Rapes Girl At Gunpoint

'Tookie' Williams' Son Allegedly Rapes Girl At Gunpoint

POSTED: 11:25 am PST November 15, 2005
UPDATED: 11:42 am PST November 15, 2005

FONTANA, Calif. -- Police in Fontana say they're looking for the son of convicted murderer and former Crips gang co-founder Stanley "Tookie" Williams.

The son is 36-year-old Lafeyette Jones.

Police say he raped a 13 year old at gunpoint in his car.

"He was able to lure the woman into the car by saying he was going to take her shopping," said Sgt. Bill Mcgenney with the Fontana police.

He then allegedly took her to a movie theater, where the girl escaped.

Police say Jones failed to register as a sex offender after moving from Louisiana.

And they say he's armed and dangerous

note the second son hasn't been convicted of this rape but "he's a sex offender in Louisiana so he doesn't appear to be a stalwart of the community
11.28.2005 4:56pm
Okay, I know Professor Volokh dislikes name-calling, but this post desperately needs to be identified as the silliest post I have seen in over two years of reading the VC. What in the heck does Marie Goretti or 'supernatural phenomena' have to do with the legitimacy of the practice of executive clemency? Executive clemency is an avowedly arbitrary power left over from the sovereign perogatives of kings. I suppose it has won a new life because, with the realization that societies with the death penalty often execute innocent people, we need a way to assure that innocent people will not die if the federal courts do not review for 'actual innocence.' Or maybe this is an effort to argue that everything the framers conceived of was a good idea. But whether or not executive clemency is a good idea has nothing to do with the possibility of sainthood!
11.28.2005 5:04pm
As some commenters have hinted, a half-assed argument for clemency based on suspected error, plus a half-assed argument for clemency based on remorse, do not add up to a full argument for clemency. Either he clears one of the hurdles or he doesn't.

He hasn't really atoned because he won't admit responsibility.
And the evidence that he was innocent is less than compelling.

So let him die and let Snoop Dogg say what he will.
11.28.2005 5:15pm
JohnO (mail):

Of course you're right. But if one-third of the public thinks you did it, but should get your life spared either because they oppose the death penalty or because of your post-conviction actions, and another one-third think you didn't do it, or that there's enough doubt to counsel against the ultimate penalty, you now have two-thirds of the public agitasting for clemency. That's why Tookie can't admit his guilt even if he did it. And, if you admit that you did it at this point, as a precondition to having clemency considered, you're now going to turn off the "redemption" crowd, because how much could you have really redeemed yourself if you lived a lie about your guilt for 25 years, right up to the present? That's what screwed Pete Rose.
11.28.2005 8:53pm
senorlechero (mail) (www):
It should be noted that in California, when a Death Sentence is commuted to Life in Prison that means life in prison with the rest of the prison population.........which includes Crips and Bloods, who regularly kill other inmates and occasionally guards/guests/workers.

It is cruel to the general prison population to have a murderer like this turned loose among them, not to mention the guards/guests/workers.
11.28.2005 11:01pm
18 USC 1030 (mail):
Though, admittedly against the death penalty, I respect the fact that the death penalty is, as of now a legal form of punishment. Therefore, though in theory I do not believe in the death penalty, I appreciate the fact that the law does provide for the death penalty; thus, if an act is committed that which meets the necessary burden to institute the death penalty and the jury decides death is the correct punishment, my belief in the proper execution of law supercedes my personal belief on the death penalty and I accept the death penalty as the legitimate punishment for a crime.

However, in this case, I believe there is a difference. I am not familiar with California Law; however, I do know that Section 1.05 of the NY penal law, when describing the purpose, enumerates, as one purpose of the penal law to provide for appropriate public response, including the good of the community. One, in determining clemency, ought consider whether or not Tookie Williams will provide more of a public good dead or alive. That is, whether or not the benefit of executing Mr. Williams is greater than any supposed benefit of keeping him alive. Obviously, the burden would rest on Mr. Williams to prove he is worth more alive than dead. The state has already proved he should be executed; however, it is my view that if he can show some reason as to why he should be kept alive, the governor should seriously consider granting clemency.

Thus, one must first consider the good in executing Mr. Williams, I will not, for purpose of this discuss the issues associated with the death penalty per se, for, the state has already decided that the death penalty was correct punishment; therefore, the state must believe the death penalty provides a benefit to society. Thus, the benefit(s) Mr. Williams provides in death is that the government has carried out its duty to the people to carry-out its responsibility to effectively punish those responsible for atrocities. Second, the government is able to, at least to the highest degree possible live up to the "3 S's" of punishment: swiftness, surety, severity. Obviously, the swiftness issue is a bit weak; however, the surety and severity requirements exist. That is, future criminals know they will, if convicted for similar crimes face, for certain, the most severe punishment possible: death. This I do believe is an important responsibility of the government. One could also argue, that in finally executing Mr. Williams, the state will face lower cost as there is 1 less person to provide for on death row. Also, and perhaps most importantly, the death penalty, it is argued, would provide the most "closure" for the family and friends of the persons Mr. Williams killed.

As to the benefit alive, Mr. Williams has, at least it is articulated that he has written children's stories discussing the horrors of gang activity; furthermore, it is argued that he has been, to some degree, instrumental in the anti-gang fight. It seems to me that if these statements are factual, that Mr. Williams may be of more benefit to society alive than dead. For, there is no one who can say that in death, Mr. Williams has the potential to keep kids from joining gangs. He, could, potentially, alive, write books, and from prison, continue the fight against gangs in order to help prevent the youth of America from joining gangs. If Mr. Williams has in fact provided some benefit to society in this regard, and aims to continue this endeavor, it seems to me he ought be granted clemency, not for his own sake, but rather, for ours. It must be considered that Mr. Williams is in a position very few others find themselves. It would be difficult, rather, close to impossible for a Montanan to speak of the horrors of gang violence in the inner-city. Mr. Williams, on the other hand, has witnessed and participated in such acts, who is better suited than he to discuss the horrors of gang violence?

The only argument I can see against this is the fact that Mr. Williams has refused to accept responsibility for the crimes he was convicted of. I would argue that had he done so, many would accept his plea for clemency. Although, I would argue, there is no benefit for his admission. What benefit is brought by him admitting guilt? It is my contention that we do not kill him because of the good that he will provide us, not the good brought him by being allowed to live. If he were to be granted clemency, for his own sake, I would argue, obviously, some degree of repentance should be necessary. However, in this case if one believes he is actually helping society with his books, they should be against his death sentence in order to continue that benefit to society. Whether or not he repents, brings no more nor less to the work he is carrying out. His actions speak louder than his words. We are not saying commute the sentence because he's a good guy and deserves to live. We are saying commute the sentence so he may be able to prevent others from ending up where he is. With that reasoning, it should not matter if he repents or not.

I am not familiar enough with his work in order to offer an opinion as to whether or not the sentence should be commuted. The argument I believe I have made is that if one believes he is serving a benefit to society in his current roll, they should support clemency.
11.28.2005 11:08pm
Robert Schwartz (mail):
If you believe in heaven and the Virgin Mary, then Tookie will be reprieved when he gets there. All we are doing is accelerating the process.
11.29.2005 12:17am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> continue the fight against gangs

The available evidence suggests that he's still an active Crip leader and hasn't ratted out his Crip associates. Yes, he's supposedly written a book and gives talks, but if the evidence is true, he's not much of an asset in the fight against gangs.
11.29.2005 10:20am
18 USC 1030 (mail):

As I said, I am unaware as to whether or not he is a benefit or not. What I did say was if he is then he should be 1 way, whereas if he is serving no benefit he should be served another. I was not offering opinion as to which case is true nor whether or not clemency should be granted.
11.29.2005 1:14pm
Herecome DeJudge (mail):
This "tookie" guy thought he was so cool to have a sawed off shotgun that he thought couldn't be traced through ballistics. Well, the jury disagreed. Now it's highly unlikely, but maybe he didn't use it on Owens and the Yang family. Maybe he didn't even let another gang member use it in those murders. But there is no question that he co-founded and lead a gang that directly murdered and poisoned with drugs many more than those four victims.

If the right hand don't get you, the left one will...
12.1.2005 12:11am