Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Passing Judgement, part 1001

Jeanne d'Arc captures the first thing I thought when the Governator denied Tookie Williams's request for clemency:

I believe in redemption. But do not ask me to judge another person's redemption. I can't do it. No one can, although some people think they can ... The idea that Arnold Schwarzenegger, of all people, could judge someone's atonement unworthy and unconvincing is not the most obscene part of this whole spectacle, but it is certainly one of the more grotesque elements.

Mahablog likewise has some choice words about peering into Mr. Williams's soul to discern what he deserved:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

The last word, as usual, goes to the Rude Pundit:

A call for peace to honor the dead? What fuckin' country does Linda Owens think she's living in? Not in George Bush's America, where more must die in Iraq to make sure the dead are honored. And certainly not in Arnold Schwarzenegger's California.


Blogger Management said...

Stanley Tookie Williams, Crips Gang Co-Founder, Is Executed

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 13 – Stanley Tookie Wiliams, a condemned gangster whose execution drew more national and international attention than any here in decades, was executed by lethal injection and pronounced dead at 12:35 this morning at San Quentin State Prison.

Mr. Williams, 51, a co-founder and leader of the Crips gang of Los Angeles who was convicted of the brutal murders of four people in 1979 amid an avalanche of gang violence there, had become, to his supporters, an icon of jailhouse redemption and a powerful critic from his cell on death row and through his writings of the perils and misguided allure of the gang life on the nation’s urban streets.

Outside the gates of San Quentin, an estimated 1,000 people held a largely peaceful vigil, reading aloud from Mr. Williams’s books, with some, shortly after midnight Monday, shouting, “Long live Tookie Williams!” At 12:38 a.m., three minutes after Mr. Williams was pronounced dead -- after a process that took 36 minutes and 15 seconds from the time Mr. Williams was brought into the chamber -- the crowd sang “We Shall Overcome.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday rejected arguments that Mr. Williams was either innocent of capital murder or deserving of mercy because of his claims of redemption, and denied a clemency petition to commute his sentence to life in prison. Late Monday, Mr. Schwarzenegger also turned down a request from the defense for a stay of execution based on a last-minute claim of innocence citing new accounts from witnesses.

And at about 11:30 p.m. Monday, the governor rejected a second request for a 60-day reprieve, a legal appeal that prison officials said slightly delayed the start of the execution, originally scheduled for 12:01.

Among the 39 witnesses -- including journalists, victims’ relatives, Mr. Williams’s lawyers and supporters and prison officials -- several of the journalists who said they had witnessed other executions described the lethal injection procedure as unusually long, as a nurse struggled to insert a needle in Mr. Williams’s muscular left arm for about 12 minutes. Mr. Williams, who was strapped to what looked like a tilted-back dental chair inside the sea-foam green death chamber, appeared frustrated, witnesses, including the prison warden, said.

Several times he lifted his head from the gurney to look up at his supporters, some of who were blowing kisses and mouthing “I love you,” the witnesses said.

The prison warden, Steve Ornoski, said the execution was not unusually drawn out, although he did say he noticed that Mr. Williams, who appeared to be trying to help his executioners during the process, seemed exasperated. “It depends on the person’s veins and whether they are readily accessible,” Mr. Ornoski said. “And also it's a high pressure assignment for someone that's in front of so many people."

Mr. Williams, who was among 651 death row inmates at San Quentin, today became the 12th man executed in the state since California reinstated the death penalty in 1978. While witnesses are expected to be silent during an execution, when Mr. Williams was pronounced dead, three of the five witnesses he asked to watch him die shouted, “The state of California just killed an innocent man!”

Lora Owens, the stepmother of Albert Owens, a 26-year-old clerk at a Los Angeles 7-11 whom Mr. Williams was convicted of killing at point blank range with a sawed off shotgun, was stoic as she watched the execution, witnesses said. But after the outburst from Mr. Williams’s supporters, Ms. Owens, who said earlier that the execution would finally bring justice to her stepson, broke down in tears, the witnesses said.

Besides the governor’s refusal to spare his life, Mr. Williams had suffered two other setbacks Monday, as first a federal appeals court and then the Supreme Court ruled against granting a stay of execution.

In his decision denying clemency, issued less than 12 hours before Mr. Williams was scheduled to die, Mr. Schwarzenegger wrote that the case had been appealed to various courts since Mr. Williams was condemned in 1981, each one upholding his conviction.

The governor described the four murders in chilling detail, cited a long list of the evidence against Mr. Williams, and said the proof of his guilt was "strong and compelling."

"Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings," Mr. Schwarzenegger wrote, "there can be no redemption. In this case, the one thing that would be the clearest indication of complete remorse and full redemption is the one thing Williams will not do."

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who joined several hundred protestors at San Quentin and visited Mr. Williams twice Monday, said he had been the first person to tell Mr. Williams about the governor's decision, which most people had agreed was to be the final word on his fate, despite the last minute legal appeals.

"I told him the clemency had been rejected," Mr. Jackson said in a telephone interview as he was leaving the prison late Monday evening. "He kind of grimaced and then he smiled and said, 'We will not give up hope.' "

The clemency request was based on what lawyers for Mr. Williams said was evidence of his dramatic turnaround in prison, where Mr. Williams became a vocal critic of gang violence, speaking out through children's books, lectures and memoirs. One memoir was the basis for a 2004 television film, "Redemption," staring Jamie Foxx, one of the many celebrities, including rap star Snoop Dogg, and activists who rushed to join the effort to save Mr. Williams's life in recent weeks.

"Our petition for clemency was based on Stanley Williams's personal redemption, his good works and positive impact that those works have had on thousands and thousands of kids across this country and on Williams's ability to continue to do those good works going forward," Jonathan Harris, one of his lawyers, said at a news conference in Sacramento on Monday.

"I have spent many an hour with Stanley Williams," Mr. Harris said, "and I refuse to accept that Stanley Williams's redemption is not genuine." He said the defense team had failed to persuade the governor to meet with Mr. Williams.

In his decision, the governor cited a planned escape by Mr. Williams while he was awaiting trial that involved his "blowing up a jail transportation bus and killing the deputies guarding the bus" as an example of behavior that is "consistent with guilt, not innocence." He also said there was no evidence that Mr. Williams's speaking out against gang violence had any effect on "the continued pervasiveness of gang violence" in crime-ridden neighborhoods.

Alice Huffman, president of the California State Conference of the N.A.A.C.P., joined Mr. Harris at the news conference and said the governor's decision to allow the execution to go forward was politically motivated. It comes at a time when he is under fire from his own party for appointing a Democrat as his new chief of staff and after the defeat of four ballot measures he supported during a special election in November.

But the governor’s office declined to elaborate on his decision to deny clemency.

Polls show that a majority of Californians supports the death penalty.

As Mr. Williams's supporters rallied around the state Monday and Tuesday, with no reports of violence, as some had feared, from police, others said he deserved to be executed.

Before leaving for San Quentin to witness the execution, Ms. Owens told CNN: "I'm just glad that we're almost to the end of this. I'm glad that finally Albert is going to have the justice he deserves."

In South Los Angeles, where the Crips have been blamed for hundreds of killings, several residents said they believed that if Mr. Williams was guilty, he should be put to death. "If he'd have killed your daughter, you'd want him dead," said Lee Johnson, 89, a retired construction worker. "He killed somebody. You got to pay for what you do."

At San Quentin at 6 p.m. Monday, officials moved Mr. Williams into what is known as the "death watch cell," a 6-by-8-foot enclosure with a toilet and a sink about 15 feet from the execution chamber. They said he was searched, given a change of clothes – blue denim jeans and a blue T-shirt -- and a stack of 50 to 75 letters from friends, school children and others.

Over the next few hours, he watched some television in a guarded adjacent cell but spent most of the time on the telephone with lawyers and supporters, discussing their failed last-ditch efforts to have the governor intervene, the officials said.

Mr. Williams decided in the final hours to allow five personal witnesses to his death, the number to which he was entitled, including Barbara Becnel, his longtime friend and advocate, who will take possession of his body but who did not yet release details of funeral arrangements.

Mr. Jackson said he had tried to persuade Mr. Williams to have witnesses there, saying to him, “You need to leave with a look in the face of the people who love you and not a look in the face of the executioners. You need to have witnesses. When it’s over, your friends can tell your story.”

Mr. Williams did not request a last meal, although he ate oatmeal earlier in the day Monday and drank water and milk throughout the day and evening, prison officials said. In an interview with the New York Times at the prison on Nov. 29, Mr. Williams said of the traditional last rite, "I'd be out of my mind to accept a meal from a place that wants to destroy me.”

Mr. Williams’s supporters and lawyers who had seen him in recent days said he was at peace with his imminent death. But, in the Times interview he said: "To threaten me with death does not accomplish the means of the criminal justice system or satiate those who think my death or my demise will be a closure for them. Their loved ones will not rise up from the grave and love them. I wish they could. I sympathize or empathize with everyone who has lost a loved one. But I didn't do it. My death would not mollify them." Of the execution, he said: "I'll go through it with dignity, with integrity, with love and bliss in my heart. I smile at everything, and I'm quite sure I'll smile then, too."

Carolyn Marshall, Michael Falcone and Adam Liptak contributed reporting from San Quentin, Calif. for this article, and Cindy Chang from Los Angeles.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Yes, we kill people

I was watching the news last night, while my daughter sat at the computer, e-mailing friends.

It looks like the execution will go forward...

"Execution? They're going to kill somebody?"

Her voice was amused -- not by the prospect of execution, but by what she was certain was her own ignorance. She had just heard a word that she knew, but one relegated to old books, nothing to do with her world. She stared, waiting for me to explain what the word really meant, because obviously it couldn't mean what she thought. It had a new meaning, right?

I hate trying to explain these things. Yes, we kill people. Some people think that when others commit horrible crimes, they have no right to live, and so the government kills them.

She wanted to know how. Or she asked, anyway. I could tell she wasn't sure she really wanted to know. I think she was afraid I was going to tell her they were crucified, or placed on a mountaintop to be devoured by vultures. When one horror from your storybooks turns out to be true, why not all of them? Do we still drown witches? Are the caves full of dragons?

I didn't have to tell her that this was wrong. Before I had a chance to start ranting about state-sponsored murder, I could see that one more piece of her trust in the world had fallen away. And I wondered if that was just my over-protected daughter, or it's everyone's first reaction. We think there's some instinctive desire for vengeance that law and civilization help us overcome, but I wonder if there is not also an instinctive recoiling from vengeance, like the one I saw on my daughter's face last night. A deep-seated understanding that if killing is wrong, killing a killer is also wrong. I don't know, but I wonder if we have it all turned around. People don't have to learn not to be vengeful; they have to bury their natural compassion.

Later in the evening, I heard Tucker Carlson complaining that the biggest problem with the death penalty was that the concept of the state antiseptically killing people was so horrible that it actually made you feel compassion for a monster like Stanley Williams. I was fascinated, watching him struggle with the compassion he admitted to feeling. He couldn't handle it. He tried every which way to make it disappear. I remembered that it was Carlson who conducted one of the most disturbing interviews George Bush ever gave:

Bush’s brand of forthright tough-guy populism can be appealing, and it has played well in Texas. Yet occasionally there are flashes of meanness visible beneath it. While driving back from the speech later that day. Bush mentions Karla Faye Tucker, a double-murderer who was executed in Texas last year In the weeks before this execution, Bush says Bianca Jagger and a number of other protesters came to Austin to demand clemency for Tucker. “Did you meet with any of them?” I ask.

Bush whips around and stares at me. “No, I didn’t meet with any of them” he snaps, as though I’ve just asked the dumbest, most offensive question ever posed. “I didn’t meet with Larry King either when he came down for it. I watched his interview with [Tucker], though. He asked her real difficult questions like “What would you say to Governor Bush?”

“What was her answer?” I wonder.

“Please” Bush whimpers, his lips pursed in mock desperation “don’t kill me”.

I must look shocked – ridiculing the pleas of a condemned prisoner who has since been executed seems odd and cruel, even for someone as militantly anticrime as Bush – because he immediately stops smirking. “It’s tough stuff”, Bush says, suddenly somber, ‘but my job is to enforce the law.” As it turns out, the Larry King-Karla Faye Tucker exchange Bush recounted never took place, at least not on television. During her interview with King, however, Tucker did imply that Bush was succumbing to election-year pressure from pro-death penalty voters. Apparently Bush never forgot it. He has a long memory for slights. (Talk Magazine, September 1999)

Carlson ended up arguing -- although he seemed to be embarrassed to find himself saying this -- that it would be better if the families of the victims could stab the murderer to death than have the state do so cleanly and efficiently. He didn't believe what he was saying. He said himself that he might back down if called on that. The call for direct vengeance let him pose as a tough guy. Compassion is frightening. Safer to refashion yourself as a monster, even if -- unlike Bush -- you're bright enough, and morally astute enough, to recognize that that's what you're doing.

I haven't read much of what's been written about Stanley Tookie Williams. Maybe, like Tucker Carlson, I was a little afraid of the compassion I knew would well up. I'm not afraid of seeing the humanity in someone capable of committing monstrous acts. I'm afraid of the feeling of helplessness that attends seeing that humanity, and not being able to do a thing to save it.

But I was also put off by the tone of the coverage. Two Sundays ago, the LA Times ran side by side op-eds.

He's a murderer. He should die

Governor, let Tookie live

They both ran under a larger headline that set the tone: SHOULD WE KILL THIS CRIP?

I can't even tell you that I hated the pro-killing piece and appreciated the pro-life one. I hated both. I hated the whole idea of the front page of the editorial section debating whether a man should live or die. Debate a school bond. Debate the justice of a war. Debate the death penalty, even. But for Christ's sake, don't ask people to sit in their comfortable rooms on a Sunday morning and turn thumbs up or thumbs down. Should he live or should he die? Jesus or Barabbas?

I believe in redemption. But do not ask me to judge another person's redemption. I can't do it. No one can, although some people think they can:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not just reject Stanley Tookie Williams' request for clemency, he aggressively attacked the central element of the former gang leader's case: Williams, he said, had never really reformed.

Over the last decade, Williams had become famous based on his account of how he went from a gang leader to an anti-gang crusader who had written books aimed at steering young people away from crime. That life story was at the heart of Williams' request for clemency.

Schwarzenegger rejected it entirely, suggesting Williams' redemption claim was "hollow."

"Stanley Williams insists he is innocent, and that he will not and should not apologize or otherwise atone for the murders," Schwarzenegger wrote. "Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption."

The idea that Arnold Schwarzenegger, of all people, could judge someone's atonement unworthy and unconvincing is not the most obscene part of this whole spectacle, but it is certainly one of the more grotesque elements.

Even Steve Lopez, one of the LA Times' better columnists, who often writes movingly of poverty, crime, and race, and who witnessed Williams' execution, and described it as a "macabre spectacle in a nation that preaches godly virtue to the world while resisting a global march away from the Medieval practice of capital punishment, " fights off belief in redemption:

Nothing I saw made me feel any differently about Williams, the Crip co-founder whose legacy is terrorized neighborhoods and a chorus of weeping mothers.

His anti-violence books and speeches were too little, too late, and the methodologizing of him was as unconvincing as the Nobel nominations.

I understand that. There are far more blatant examples of the horror of capital punishment. Cory Maye remains on death row for what was clearly an act of self-defense. Ruben Cantu, executed a decade ago in Texas, was almost surely innocent. But I have to disagree with Atrios that cases like Maye's make better arguments against the death penalty than Williams'. You can nitpick around the margins of the death penalty by pointing out its injustice, its fundamental racism, but you end up focusing people's attention on trying to make a profound wrong more right. In order to really understand why the death penalty is wrong, you need to be brave enough to look not just at innocents killed, but at the guilty, at the worst, most indefensible people on death row. The problem with Stanley Williams' case is not that he committed such heinous crimes, but that it is far too easy to recognize the humanity that continued to dwell behind the monster, and began to emerge when it had the chance to do so. Randy Paul has a thought-provoking post up about another case where we learned that people capable of great evil can also be capable of great good. Most of the time whatever humanity is still in there is damn well hidden. As Richard Pryor said, "Thank God we got penitentiaries!" I think in many ways murderers like Stanley Williams and Karla Faye Tucker are far more threatening to people who believe in capital punishment than the kind of criminal who brandishes his supposedly irredeemable nature, or even than the wrongfully accused. It's far easier to tell yourself that something isn't done right than that it shouldn't be done at all.

The Supreme Court gave us a brief respite from the death penalty, which ended with the execution of Gary Gilmore in 1977. I remember that execution very well because of something I'd never witnessed before -- criminal groupies. Every single person I knew at the time who supported capital punishment also admired Gary Gilmore, because he said flat out that he was a monster and deserved to die. He was the first person executed after Furman v. Georgia temporarily wiped away all the states' death penalty laws primarily because he refused to fight for his life. This is what you have to believe if you support capital punishment: Monsters are monsters and they know it. (If they seem not to, they must be faking us out, and we have to be tough and not be swayed.) People who loved capital punishment loved Gary Gilmore for supporting their myths. They despised Stanley Williams not, primarily, because of his crimes, but because his life challenged that myth.

I don't know if the redemption is real or fake. I know there are many people who can't face the prospect that it might be real, because realizing that the capacity for good and the capacity for evil dwell in the same body is too difficult to face. But to really challenge capital punishment, you have to force people to face it.

12:56 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Tookie Williams was executed last night, and in the cold dawn light of the next day right-wingers are still dancing around the embers of their victory bonfires. "Shake hands with the devil," says one. Michelle Malkin, in her role as tribal high priestess, makes righteous note of the names of those Tookie Williams was convicted of murdering. Those who protested the execution are dismissed as "the freak show."

So Tookie Williams is dead, and the four people he was convicted of murdering remain dead, also. And the world turns, and the seasons change. In the vastness of eternity, big bleeping deal. Whatever path Williams took last night is one we'll all take eventually. Whether we "deserve" death or not is beside the point.

And this is a point missed by both advocates and protesters of last night’s execution. Opponents of the death penalty make a huge mistake, IMO, by making the issue about what a prisoner might deserve. Will Bunch wrote yesterday about an anti-death penalty “cult of celebrity” that makes poster boys out of “deserving” prisoners like Williams or Mumia Abu-Jamal. These men are considered “deserving” because of their intelligence and accomplishments. Those who argue for sparing them either dismiss their convictions or insist they are better men now and don’t deserve to die for what they did then.

But if we make the argument about who deserves to die, we’re thinking like righties, who arrogantly believe they know who deserves to live or die. Bunch continues,

To truly oppose the death penalty, one must oppose it not just for the innocent or the remorseful, but for the most vile scum among us. The idea of a government taking someone’s life is offensive to our core religious beliefs — and most likely to yours as well. A so-called Christian fundamentalist who supports capital punishment is going through more twists than a South Philly pretzel. Even the Pope — and maybe even Rick Santorum — can get this one right.

From an editorial in today’s Los Angeles Times,

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER should have granted clemency — to Donald Beardslee, the convicted murderer executed in January. Beardslee didn’t have celebrity advocates making his case, like Stanley Tookie Williams did. But if Schwarzenegger had commuted Beardslee’s sentence to life in prison without parole, he would have made clear that no one would be put to death on his watch. And he could have explained that a civilized society doesn’t kill for retribution and should certainly not continue doing so when it’s become clear that the judicial system’s margin of error is unacceptably high.

Alas, Schwarzenegger failed to stake out that principled position. So Williams, who was scheduled to be executed shortly after midnight, always faced an uphill battle in seeking clemency. The governor turned him down because he does not consider capital punishment to be about our values as a society, but about the merits of the convicted supplicant.

Put another way, executions are not just about what is done to the condemned, but about what is done to us, the executioners.

The death penalty does not deter crime. Nor, I believe, has it been proved reliably to ease the sorrow of those who loved the victim. It only serves to gratify some base instinct that makes us want to cast all aberrations out of the tribe — including the malformed, the odd, the diseased, and anyone else who varies from social and biological norms.

But throughout human history, the great moral and spiritual teachers have urged us to renounce this instinct. If Jesus really said what he is quoted as saying in Matthew chapters 5-7, for example, the rightie tribal dancers need to look to their own souls. “Ye have heard that it was said to men of old, Thou shalt not murder; and whosoever shall murder shall be liable to judgement. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with His brother without good cause shall be liable to judgement. … Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say unto you, that ye resist not the evil one: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. … Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

About five centuries earlier, the Tao Teh Ching warned (verse 74)

People fear death because death is an instrument of fate.
When people are killed by execution rather than by fate,
This is like carving wood in the place of a carpenter.
Those who carve wood in place of a carpenter
Often injure their hands.

Capital punishment is a failure of civilization. It legitimizes violence. It gratifies our worse instincts. It diminishes us as a people.

It’s not something to celebrate.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Governor Didn't Believe Williams Had Reformed
By Henry Weinstein and Peter Nicholas
Times Staff Writers

December 13, 2005

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did not just reject Stanley Tookie Williams' request for clemency, he aggressively attacked the central element of the former gang leader's case: Williams, he said, had never really reformed.

Over the last decade, Williams had become famous based on his account of how he went from a gang leader to an anti-gang crusader who had written books aimed at steering young people away from crime. That life story was at the heart of Williams' request for clemency.

Schwarzenegger rejected it entirely, suggesting Williams' redemption claim was "hollow."

The governor laid out his case in a five-page statement that was unusual for the length, detail and blunt tone in which it dismissed Williams' claims. Aides said the statement was largely drafted by Andrea Hoch, Schwarzenegger's legal affairs secretary, and her predecessor, Peter Siggins. Schwarzenegger announced last week that he was appointing Siggins to a state appellate court.

Aides to the governor, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the governor's deliberations, said Schwarzenegger was reviewing drafts of the statement as late as Monday morning. It was officially released shortly after noon. He reviewed as many as half a dozen drafts, asking detailed questions, the aides said.

In the days leading up to the deadline, Schwarzenegger had said that he was approaching the decision with "dread" and that deciding another man's fate was a governor's most difficult task.

But "there is nothing in the tone of the governor's decision that suggests it was a close call or agonized over," said USC law professor Jody Armour.

Instead, Schwarzenegger said there was no question that Williams had murdered four people in 1979. Williams' repeated refusal to admit that became, to the governor, a powerful factor against clemency.

"Stanley Williams insists he is innocent, and that he will not and should not apologize or otherwise atone for the murders," Schwarzenegger wrote. "Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption."

The evidence of guilt, the governor's statement said, included testimony from two of Williams' accomplices, ballistics evidence linking Williams' shotgun to the murders and testimony from four people that Williams had at different times confessed to one or both murders.

Moreover, he said, after Williams' arrest, he conspired to escape "by blowing up a jail transportation bus and killing the deputies guarding" it. Although the escape was never carried out, "there are detailed escape plans in Williams' own handwriting," the statement said, adding that an escape plan is "consistent with guilt, not innocence."

Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson said she thought that Williams' clemency bid was plagued from the start by his position that he would never acknowledge that he committed the four murders.

"I will never admit capital crimes that I did not commit — not even to save my life," Williams wrote in his 2004 autobiography "Blue Rage, Black Redemption." He repeated that position Monday afternoon in a conversation with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jackson told reporters.

"Tookie wanted to have it both ways — he wanted to maintain his actual innocence claim so that he would have something to argue in the courts, but he still wanted to claim that he had been redeemed," Levenson said. "In the end, he lost on both fronts."

In addition to arguing that Williams' continued claims of innocence should be counted against him, the governor made a point of quoting the dedication of Williams' 1998 book "Life in Prison."

In the dedication, Williams named 11 people, all of whom had been imprisoned or in custody. Among them were Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid leader; Malcolm X, the black nationalist leader assassinated in 1965; and Angela Davis, the black Marxist professor acquitted of murder charges in 1972.

Schwarzenegger and his aides focused on one name on the list — George Jackson, the author of "Soledad Brother," a book about life in prison. Jackson was "gunned down on the upper yard at San Quentin Prison" on Aug. 21, 1971, in a "foiled escape attempt on a day of unparalleled violence in the prison that left three officers and three inmates dead," Schwarzenegger said.

"The inclusion of George Jackson on this list defies reason and is a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed and that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems," the governor said.

Finally, Schwarzenegger discounted the main arguments made by backers of clemency — that Williams should be kept alive because of the power of his anti-gang message.

"It is hard to assess the effect of such efforts in concrete terms, but the continued pervasiveness of gang violence leads one to question the efficacy of Williams' message," the governor's statement said.

That line drew criticism from Elisabeth Semel, who runs the death penalty clinic at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall law school.

"I don't think the African American community leaders," supporting Williams' clemency bid were "having trouble feeling the impact" of Williams' message, she said. She added that the governor was being unreasonable in suggesting that "one person, Tookie Williams, has to carry the weight on his shoulders of turning around gang violence in Los Angeles."

"I don't think you should lionize Tookie, but even those who are astute enough not to lionize him recognize his message has had a positive influence," she said.

Aides to the governor have consistently said that he made his decision without regard to politics. Political analysts from both parties, however, said his final decision was the one with the least chance of hurting his chances for reelection.

"The consideration of clemency for Tookie Williams, on a political basis, was always more of an opportunity to do political harm to himself than to help himself politically," said Kevin Spillane, a Republican consultant in Sacramento.

Spillane and others stressed that a decision to grant clemency would have angered conservatives and that the decision to allow the execution would not have much downside for Schwarzenegger.

Voters elected Schwarzenegger "knowing he was a strong supporter of the death penalty," said Democratic consultant Bill Carrick. "I don't think the voters are going to be the least bit surprised by his decision."

1:07 PM  
Blogger Management said...

On the Dead and Dying, Part 2: Arnold's Choice:
Man, the Rude Pundit wants Arnold Schwarzenegger to be in charge of all decisions of life or death. He wants that deep thinkin' demi-Nazi to walk from cell to cell at San Quentin and mark a chalk X outside each door. Because Arnold Schwarzenegger is just who we all want tellin' us who should live or die, who deserves mercy and who deserves death. Goddamn, what an easy world it'll be havin' Arnold Schwarzenegger make all those decisions.

Fuck, let's not limit Arnold Schwarzenegger to the executable on death row; send Arnold Schwarzenegger into hospitals so he can give the thumbs up or thumbs down to each person on life support. The Rude Pundit wants us to entrust Arnold Schwarzenegger with that shit. Let's not stop with amendin' the Constitution so Arnold can lead us all. The Rude Pundit wants Arnold Schwarzenegger on the left hand of God, Jesus, Allah, who the fuck ever, sayin' to that big ass deity where to toss lightnin', where to unleash a plague, where to make the waters rise, and where to make the land dry out.

'Cause no one knows how to judge the worth of a soul like Arnold Schwarzenegger, man. No one could tell whether or not someone's more valuable dead than alive, no one can say how many lives will be saved if Stanley "Tookie" Williams had been allowed to live, no one is full of unbiased, apolitical consideration more than Arnold Fuckin' Schwarzenegger.

Arnold Fuckin' Schwarzenegger? Ya gotta be fuckin' kiddin'. Who's been indirectly responsible for more violence since the early 1980s, Tookie or the Terminator? Tough question, no?

For, if nothing else, the Williams case has laid clear the absurdity of the governorship of Arnold Schwarzenegger. If you spend your life acting like an amoral, gun-firing buffoon, why should anyone expect you to act differently as the governor? That would require an act of clemency by the voting public, that might require you to say you wanted to redeem yourself for your past sins.

Meanwhile, last night, the Rude Pundit flipped between CNN and Fox "News" to watch coverage of the execution of Stanley Williams. CNN went with the more intellectually stimulating CNN International (motto: Other countries are smarter than the United States, and we prove it every day) for its reporting, and Fox went with the usual Murdoch spooge buckets.

A couple of brief observations: whoever the pro-death penalty guy on CNNi was, he was one creepy motherfucker, speaking in perfectly even tones about the need for "justice," and apocalyptically quoting the Bible. When confronted by the anchor (possibly Todd Benjamin) with the notion of turning the other cheek, creepy pro-death guy calmly short circuited as he tried to shoehorn that bromide into his kill 'em all mentality. Then he took out a cute little lamb and ate it alive. Truly stunning TV for 3 a.m.

Fox "News" took every opportunity, which meant every time someone opened his or her mouth, to talk about Williams' murder conviction, the victims' families, or the Crips. Fox had a reporter witnessing the execution. He was roughly the tenth media witness to speak, and the first to say that Williams had stared at the media section as if trying to "intimidate" them. Fox stuck to the script, man, of Tookie the monster, as if to grant clemency meant that Williams would be set free to rape white children, not simply live out his life in prison without parole.

And the most disheartening thing of all was how little was mentioned, in the cruel march to the death chamber, of how the ex-wife of one of Williams' alleged victims, Albert Owens (whose family is entirely fucked-up in conflict over the execution), called for support of Williams' efforts to redeem himself for his gang-building past: "I, Linda Owens want to build upon Mr. Williams' peace initiative. I invite Mr. Williams to join me in sending a message to all communities that we should all unite in peace. This position of peace would honor my husband's memory and Mr. Williams work."

A call for peace to honor the dead? What fuckin' country does Linda Owens think she's living in? Not in George Bush's America, where more must die in Iraq to make sure the dead are honored. And certainly not in Arnold Schwarzenegger's California.

1:09 PM  

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