It looks like Tookie is going to die

It has been kind of quiet here about Tookie Williams- I guess it is Hollywood’s cause du jour- but today we learned that the Governator will not grant clemency. I have mixed emotions as I read this bit of news. When I was younger, and concerned more with fun than the very real abuses of authority, I would have thought that he should die. Tonight, as an adult, I think he should live. But, he should live without the chance of parole. He could, then, work on proving his innocence and remain non-threatening to society.

Here in the U.S., we once prided ourselves on dispensing justice fairly and wisely. An accused man would meet his accuser in court and be judged by a jury of his peers. If the accused was convicted, his peers would determine the punishment. That, of course, was before our “War on (fill in the blank)” mentality and mandatory sentencing. I understand that Tookie’s fate was decided before before Supreme Court cases Booker and Fanfan, but it was after California’s “War on Gangs.” That group was founded in 1977.

And we all know what happens when Americans are duped in the name of war. We have a “war on drugs”, “war on terror”, “war on poverty” and a “war on Christmas” going on right now. In the drug war, we have police falsifying evidence against the innocent. See Tulia, Texas and Dallas, Texas. Our war on terror brings up Gitmo . These are the things vexing me tonight. We have seen-over and over- what a little hysteria can do. And we have seen what the government will do to placate our worried souls.

Tookie Williams never admitted guilt. He has maintained (from the reports I read) consistent testimony. He was a co-founder of a notorious California street gang and he was brought to trial during a period of gang hysteria; with police having to make a bust to prove their worth. From what I could find, there is no conclusive evidence against the man. It seems to be circumstantial evidence of testimony from other crooks buying a way out of their own long sentences. The Turkish Press reports,

According to court documents, a former prisoner has testified that sheriff’s deputies fed incriminating evidence to a witness who testified against Williams at his 1981 murder trial, and forged Williams’ handwriting to create bogus evidence.

The fact that many American immates prove innocent is not an anomaly. DNA evidence has many times led to justice for the wrongly accused. According to http://www.louisville.edu/~bmmatn01/capstonefirstdraft.html,

…Another of the twenty-eight original cases was that involving a man named Rolando Cruz. In February 1983, a 10-year-old girl was kidnapped, raped, and bludgeoned to death. There were no leads in the case until an anonymous tip led the police to place Cruz under arrest on March 6, 1984. Rolando was still only under suspicion until he began to share details about the crime that came to him in “visions.” Based on this information, he was indicted on March 9, 1984, and was later found guilty of kidnapping, rape, and murder. This conviction was made based on several points stressed by the prosecution: 1) several police officers testified that Cruz made incriminating statements, 2) a number of witnesses testified that Cruz admitted to having intimate knowledge of the crimes, 3) the “dream visions” of the murder that plagued Rolando were admitted as evidence on the basis of the testimony of sheriff’s detectives, and 4) Cruz’s alibi was not aggressively pursued. Rolando went to jail and soon appealed his case. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled that Cruz was “denied a fair trial by reason of introduction of admissions of codefendants.” Another trial ensued, and Rolando was again convicted. Upon a third appeal, Cruz was sentenced yet again. After the third appeal, however, DNA evidence was introduced that cleared Cruz of matching the semen that was found at the crime scene. Rolando was set free after having served eleven years on death row.

We have had more than one hundred deathrow inmates exonerated based on DNA evidence. One is too many. To put a convicted criminal behind bars is one thing. For the innocent, deprivation of liberty is bad enough. For an imperfect system to take the life of an innocent is quite another thing. When Americans leave their “leaders” at the wheel, without the navigator of common sense and vigilant watch, we needlessly harm fellow humans as collateral damage.

Is Tookie innocent? I don’t know. I do know that based on what I have seen, between the reports of his case and other miscarriages of justice, I could not give death. An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948), (attributed) And right now, blind is not something we can afford to be.

17 Comments
  1. You should read up on your facts before you go publishing ignorant comments on a topic you have not bothered to research properly. What is it with you people that don’t want justice? Without harsh punishment, then we’d have a lot more cirminals walking around. It’s not eye for an eye, it’s more like justice for the families who will never see their son, father, mother, or sister ever again… 1000 children’s books can redeem yourself from Murder.

    Why don’t you read the DA’s report which references facts and transcripts from the testimony and depositions of eye witness who were WITH him when he commited the crimes.

    Research: http://www.lacountyda.org/pdf/swilliams.pdf

  2. I can’t help but wonder, are you psychic? I myself posted similar thoughts on another forum, including information regarding the Cruz conviction.

    “According to court documents, a former prisoner has testified that sheriff’s deputies fed incriminating evidence to a witness who testified against Williams at his 1981 murder trial, and forged Williams’ handwriting to create bogus evidence.”

    I have read through a copy of this document and am outraged that it is basically been tossed aside. The witness who testified at the murder trial stated Williams told him outright that he committed those crimes, which would be extremely important evidence in the conviction.

    4 times Williams appealed to the courts on the grounds of exactly what this new affidavit states happened and was denied.

    information regarding those appeals can be found here:

    http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/9th/9999018ap.pdf

    This is not justice.

  3. Kristi,

    I thought Michelle presented her case fairly well. She never indicated that Williams is innocent, merely that the entire system is suspect.

    As a case in point, read this story.

  4. The validity of that eye witness testimony has been brought into question. There is a sworn affidavit stating that the eyewitness was given police documents pertaining to Williams case, to help him to testify against Williams. Additionally that very eye witness stated that he was doing this to obtain a reduced sentance for the crime he had committed.

  5. I am about an eye for an eye – I have learned history – blah blah – it will repeat itself – How long has the USA dealt with gang rivalry? Please – Get a hold of the real concept – 4 peoples lives have never gone on – and what about those relatives… I hate looking at my paycheck every two weeks or at tax time thinking about how much money I have spent for books to be published paintings to be sold, criminals to learn more than I have ver had the chance… Its all a joke – I should go commit a crime so I don’t have to worry about my bills – I can have all U.S. citizens pay them for me… I am young but I think it’s a joke how long criminals sit and wait – I give a thumbs up to our CA GOV. today…

  6. No matter how many witnesses were brought into question, the evidence and other witnesses ahve out riht said that either they were with him when the murder’s were commmitted, or he confessed to them. One of the people that was with him during the crimes he wanted to kill because he thought he was going to snitch. This my friend is in a hand written note written by Tookie himself. Explain that! I believe justice has been served. Not only for those 4 people’s families but for all families that have lost a loved one from the Crips wrath. I myself don’t want to pay to keep Tookie alive until his natural death on my tax dollars, when he’s proven himself not worthy of life. I find it humorous that he tried every outlet to save his life but those 4 victims didn’t have that option.

  7. While listening to Tookie’s defenders, including his relatives, I hear the word redemption repeated over and over. This seems somewhat suspicious to me because I wonder what he is “redeeming” himself for by writing these books. He has not confessed to commiting the murders he has been convicted of. His redemption appears to be a show put on to inspire pity for his situation. Is there anyone else who is suspicious of the fact that this former gang founder has decided to write children’s books now that he has been put on death row?
    I understand that it is the mentality of many that they would prefer to let 1000 murderers go free than to send one innocent man to his death. Currently, I don’t hold that mind-set and I have great faith in our government. Obviousl the judicial system is not flawless, but I believe that people lie to themselves and others more often than judges and jurors make mistakes.

  8. I wonder if some of you even read what I wrote. Tookie’s hand written note is alleged to be a fake and I certainly never advocated the release of a person convicted of a violent offense. My point, was that it is an imperfect system with much corruption and abuse of authority. Our police officers go off half cocked to make us feel like they are doing something about the latest “crises” and sometimes manufacture evidence. Of course, if you had read to the end, you know where I said, “To put a convicted criminal behind bars is one thing. For the innocent, deprivation of liberty is bad enough. For an imperfect system to take the life of an innocent is quite another thing.” you would know that. And as far as keeping Tookie alive on your tax dollar, dude, that would be a cakewalk if we can get our war on (blank) enforcers to stop locking up NON-VIOLENT offenders.

  9. Dear Michelle,
    I know, I’m commenting after the execution, but I’ve been busy. There’s one point that I take issue with. You said, “Is Tookie innocent? I don’t know. I do know that based on what I have seen, between the reports of his case and other miscarriages of justice, I could not give death.

    This is the reason that we leave the decision of who is guilty and innocent to juries who weigh the facts and evidence and evaluate the credibility of witnesses as they testify, not based on claims raised years after the fact outside of the courtroom.

    The question of whether we want to empower juries to make that decision when the penalty is/could be death is a harder one, but 64% of Americans are still support it.

    Yours truly,
    Nick

    …drive-by…

  10. I think his death was too easy early this morning. He should have been hung by the neck, hands untied, slowly pulled up so all his weight was on the rope but allowing his toes to barely touch the floor. When his arms finally got so tired he could not hang on to the rope anymore, even with those large biceps, then he would slowly choke to death.

    I guess this is hoping for a real execution. I forgot about the “cruel and unusual punishment” clause.

    He never repented or apologized for his actions. The convictions for 4 murders were only the ones he was charged with. I have read he was directly responsible (pulled the trigger) on many more, with estimates as high as 50 executions.

  11. I like to think I have a level head about the death penalty, but in Tookie’s case I think the real crime was waiting 20+ years to actually go through with it. The sympathy level keeps ratcheting up as we watch a convict turn old and feeble, and it doesn’t send much of a detterence message to anyone who would like to walk in his shoes.

  12. After reading all 57 pages of:

    http://www.lacountyda.org/pdf/swilliams.pdf

    I can’t believe how much support Tookie has received. While I agree that many cases rely on questionable witnesses, limited forensics, and circumstantial evidence, this is not the case here.

    Tookie has not repented, nor do I believe he is a changed person worth saving. His lack of remorse for the killings and lack of sympathy for the victims’ families speaks volumes. As for sending out a message to the youth in gangs, Mr. Williams death is sending a message. Brutally killing someone does not guarantee you three hots and a cot for life. While the system is slow, it does eventually carry out justice.

  13. You are right about juries weighing facts as testified, but this testimony was from other criminals looking to make a deal. According to reports, there was no physical evidence. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/LegalCenter/story?id=1377890&CMP=OTC-RSSFeeds0312

    I made no argument about Tookie’s innocence. He probably commited countless acts of violence. But he was only charged and tried for these murders. To execute any man who claims he is innocent based on shady testimony and no conclusive physical evidence seems to be unjust to me. Especially in a climate of heightened fear & blatant corruption.

    Let’s see now what happens in Corey Maye’s story.

  14. The defense probably raised the issue of what deals the witnesses against him had made as a way to weaken their testimony. Juries decide on how shady the evidence is, because they’re in the best place to judge it.

    If we trust the jury, Tookie was guilty of murder. If he was guilty of murder and did not apologize, it’s fair to say that he is unrepentant. If he is unrepentant for a crime he’s been judged guilty of, it’s hard to argue that he should receive clemency.

    Yours truly,
    Nick

    …reserving judgment…

  15. I am against the death penalty as a policy. Mainly, I don’t believe the state should have the authority to execute people. I also view it as hypocritical.

    I can respect the people who ethically oppose the DP, therefore they wanted clemency for him. But most of his supporters said he should be given an exception because he had reformed. That is an argument I will not respect.

    The man did not admit he was guilty. You cannot expect me to believe he was wrongfully convicted on 4 murder charges. I applaud his turn around and his efforts but if he wasn’t willing to admit he was guilty, it means he didnt believe he did anything wrong. He would not admit that he was completely wrong and sorry that he took the lives of four people and caused many more people grief and pain.

    If Tookie would have admitted his guilt, and apologized to the victim’s families I would have had a different feeling on this issue.

    You can not reform when you deny your responsiblity for the very injustice you caused.

  16. The Rolando Cruz case I mentioned also saw the conviction held up on appeal- 3 times. He was, eventually, exonerated. Though sad, manufatured evidence is a reality in our world. The LA County DA report offered appears to me a document that simply gives the prosecutors’ answer to a convict’s clemency plea. I also mentioned that there are “guidelines” for juries telling them what they must order in the case for conviction. This practice became challenged law recently, but has been in effect for 20+ years. Quite simply, there was as little holding Tookie to the crime as there is real evidence. HE MIGHT HAVE KILLED THOSE PEOPLE-BUT MAYBE NOT. It was mentioned that years studying a case may bring out inconsistent ideas, and that perhaps if executions were carried out more swiftly, this would be a non-issue. I agree. But tell that to the hundreds who eventually proved to be wrongfully incarcerated. If you care about justice, you take care to dispense it wisely.

  17. I agree with Julian. This man was a killer if not here than somewhere else. In respect to the system yes its fallible, but why is everyone here treating that as new news? Lets reserve our good judgement and efforts for someone who really might have a little less questionable character. He has changed? So would I if I spent six years in the hole. Guess the system worked….Ryan

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