Friday, December 09, 2005

Tookie Williams: my opinion

I put up this question a bit ago and appreciated hearing your comments. The more I think about it, though, the more his whole case bothers me. I've come to the decision that he should not be granted clemency. Here's why:

The arguments for saving his life come down to these:
1) The death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. It shouldn't exist in the first place. Thus anyone who can be pardoned/granted clemency should be.

2) Williams can do more harm than good if he lives.

3) If the point of our justice system is rehabilitation, then surely Williams is rehabilitated. He regrets that he started the crips and has been continually working against gang violence.

4) Maybe, just maybe, he didn't commit those crimes.

My counter-arguments:
1) Yes. (Ok, this is a bad counter-argument.) But if we truly want justice, we should not simply grant life in prison without parole to those people who happen to gain lots of national attention. It should be granted to all persons, regardless of crime, race, age, wealth, intelligence, or popularity. Making a few exceptions here and there because the public eye makes us feel guilty cheapens our legal system. Better to do more good by revising the system.

2) At first blush, I agreed with this. Then it started to piss me off. So we should pardon a rich doctor from murder because he can save lives, but a poor person working part-time at Stater Bros. grocery store should die? Should we forgive the politician because he's so important and powerful? Should we say that a teacher should be forgiven of sex scandals because she can teach people to learn to read? I certainly hope not. This really comes down to people who feel uncomfortable with the death penalty, I think (see #1).

3) The first true mark of rehabilitation is admitting to your crimes and feeling remorse. Tookie Williams has never admitted to the four murders he is accused of. And this is the kicker--he's not on death row for being a gang member, not even a powerful gang member. He's on death row because he has been found guilty by a jury of his peers for four bloody murders. He can feel sorry for being a gang member all he wants. How do you make that up to the family of the poor guy shot in the back three times for working at a gas station?

4) He's worn out the legal system and exhausted all options of appeal. When the system says your guilty, and I'm on the outside without knowing the ins and outs of every piece of evidence, I'm inclined to go with the verdict.


Blogger Barnaby said...

Interesting post Jessica - this has hardly made news over here so I know little about it - I really do, however (oops I just fell in line to be a quasi-liberal pom) strongly disagree with the death penalty. As for the fact that Arnie has the final is all rather strange to us over here!

1:46 PM  
Blogger Sally G said...

I read about this and it is a very tricky thing.... I do believe that life should be life and our prison laws never adhere to that and someone could be out in 20 years with good behaviour, unless they plead diminished responsibility, in which case they spend the rest of their days in the very posh Broadmoor hospital!!!! I do not think the death penalty is a good thing as you pointed out for many reasons. There are lots of people wrongly accused who are serving sentences now and so many could die and be perfectly innocent... I do think that penalties should be higher particularly for paedophiles and rapists however... Mmm..tricky...very tricky...

6:17 AM  
Blogger James said...

This is a tough one. I hadn't heard much until I read about it on your blog and then today there was something in our local paper about it.

I'm inclined to agree with you. To give him clemency essentially values his life above the lives of other, less-famous, lower-profile inmates on death row. You're right that that cheapens our system. I don't like the death penalty (yes, there are some Texans who feel that way believe it or not) but I think clemency for him seems to just reinforce the idea that a famous criminal with Snoop-Dogg advocating for him gets a different judicial shake than others who are more anonymous. It is a tough one, though.

Perhaps I have heard little about it here because in Texas death penalty debates focus less on whether it's right or wrong and more on how high should we hang 'em. Sigh.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Stormmaster said...

I saw a bit of news about the case on CNN - but no real facts. But I think that if there is only the slightest doubt - and as I perceived it, it's not very clear what happened - then death penalty isn't the way to go.
Too many have been convicted and brought to death only to later find out that they were innocent - I think no one should make that decision, even more so because it is made in the name of "the people"; I wouldn't want to have that decision made in my name.

That Arnie is going to decide is strange ... as is that he was able to become the Governator in the first place.

12:31 PM  

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