Monday, December 12, 2005

Profile of someone who deserves to be killed

The death penalty is in the news again.

Is Stanley "Tookie" Williams the type of person who should be killed? There is certainly more than enough questionable evidence and circumstances around his conviction to make one wonder how in the world a jury of his peers did not come up with any "reasonable doubt".

* The testimony of several witnesses, all of whom were facing a range of felony charges, including fraud, rape, murder and mutilation. Even the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stated in a September 10, 2002, ruling that the witnesses in Stan’s case had “less-than-clean backgrounds and incentives to lie in order to obtain leniency from the state in either charging or sentencing.”
• Fingerprints were found at both crime scenes, but they were not Stan’s. These fingerprints have never been identified.
• A bloody boot print left near the victim at one of the crime scenes was not Stan’s. This boot print has never been identified.
• A shotgun shell found at that crime scene was said to be from a gun purchased by Stan five years earlier. But the gun was, in fact, found under the bed of two people – a husband and wife facing felony insurance fraud charges and who were also under investigation for murdering their own crime partner. This husband-and-wife crime team did not serve any prison time and their murder investigation was dropped after they testified that Stan “volunteered” a confession to them.
• The “star” witness at Stan’s trial – a white man and longtime felon who was placed in a nearby cell while Stan awaited trial and was years later discovered to have been a paid police informant – also testified that Stan “volunteered” a confession to him. But nearly 20 years after Stan’s trial it was discovered that a Los Angeles police officer had left a copy of the police murder file involving Stan’s case in this informant’scell for overnight study. The next day the murder file was picked up by that same officer, and the informant informed the police that Stan had volunteered a confession to him. In return for this testimony, the informant – who himself was facing the death penalty for rape, murder and mutilation – was given a lesser sentence that allowed him the possibility of parole and freedom.

And none of that matters that much to me. It matters, and certainly things like that should be part of the death penalty debate, both in general and in this specific case, but it's not what rings as the most important of issues regarding this. Tookie helped start one of the worst gangs in American history. He committed crimes. He wasn't always a model prisoner either. But the prison system should be about incarceration and rehabilitation. How does Tookie fit those terms?

* While on death row, Stan has written 9 highly-acclaimed children’s books that educate young people to avoid gangs, crime and incarceration.
* He has also worked to end gang violence through his peace protocol and Internet Project for Street Peace, an international peer mentoring program. Stan has saved the lives of over 150,000 youth, as reported by them, their parents, teachers and law enforcement officials in their emails to Stan(
* His work has resulted in multiple nominations for the Nobel Peace and Literature prizes. This summer Stan’s work was even recognized by the President of the United States when he received a presidential award for his volunteer work to help youth.

That's right! This man is a multiple time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize - and they want to murder him! He is doing more to stop crime and violence and save lives than 99.9% of the world and people are still claiming the right thing to do, the BEST thing to do, is to execute him. The death penalty doesn't make any logical sense in the first place when it's a bad, evil, deserving murderer ("you killed someone and that's wrong, so we're going to kill you to show you how wrong it is to kill people"), but this is unfortunately the logical path supporting that takes you on - you get to the point of killing people who have had a total life change and are doing more good than the harm they ever caused (if they caused any at all). Expat can think I am taking it out of context all he wants, but I absolutely envision Jesus being the first one to stand up to Tookie's execution happy death penalty supporters and telling them - " Whoever among you is without sin, insert the first needle."