Does anyone have an opinion on the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams?
I haven’t done much research beyond what’s on Wikipedia, and really haven’t done the background sleuthing into the opinions of the victims’ families.
On our law school listserv there has been a lot of back and forth that often includes emotional attacks-hopefully fueled by finals, primarily, but sadly I know better. Generally, it has evolved into a death penalty debate in general.
I just thought I’d put it out there for discussion if there is any.
My take: I’m against the death penalty generally. But I’d rather take the death penalty as an un-debatable constant in this situation and discuss whether Tookie deserved clemency or what he got. Yes, I do believe that this is possible without arguing the effectiveness/validity/salience of the death penalty on its own. Also, there are arguments regarding the “reformability” of a person to be made and how to determine the permanence of those reforms.As a person who is quite flawed and has committed many wrongs–even deeply hurting people I love–I do believe that reform is possible through a true and proven-over-time change in character*.
The question becomes, however, does reform warrant clemency (legal clemency)? And, is there a proportional relationship between the wrong and the reform? For instance, in Tookie’s case, are his actions (writing books, telling kids not to join gangs) enough to prove, in your mind, that he deserved clemency? In my mind, no. I don’t think he did everything possible to show that he was truly repentant and had changed. Did he do LOTS of good? YES! But perhaps he could have been more helpful bringing down other Crips who had committed crimes, or offered apologies, or admitted the crimes (this is assuming that he did commit the four murders). In other words, put EVERY effort into proving his reformation that would lessen the primary assumption that the reason he did all of the positive things he did was solely to escape the death penalty.
*I must admit unequivocally that I believe a true transformation/reformation comes only through a relationship with Jesus. I also realize that this is not an argument to be made in court, or to the Governator in Tookie’s case, and probably doesn’t ring true on this blog. (therefore it cannot be grounds for legal clemency) Furthermore, I DO NOT believe that if a person “finds Jesus” in the county jail or elsewhere in life they should be granted clemency or are absolved of the natural consequences of their actions. Although nobody can earn their “salvation” the proof of the transformation is in their subsequent actions, and in cases of clemency, those are the actions that should be considered when granting it.