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Writing Doesn’t Halt Violence

Stanley “Tookie” Williams

I usually try to not pay attention to mainstream news, because, well, it’s so slanted. And don’t for a minute think I’m going to say ‘yippie skippie’ because the media is so liberal (which it is), because I don’t think it’s a good message by our media to so slant this country’s perception of the war that it potentially demoralizes our soldier at this quote-unquote war (I mean, just because the president calls it a war and the newspapers call it a war, it doesn’t change that only Congress can declare a war... and it doesn’t change the fact that we’ve got our people in harm’s way right at this very moment in Iraq...). Besides, the demoralizing slants on our work in Iraq is probably also the only thing Al Quaeda hears from our news, so they’ll think they have a leg up in their desire to further destroy us.
And this war is NOT even a genuine attempt to destroy the people who originally attacked us (did Iraq, or Saddam Hussein, take credit for flying our planes into the World Trade Center towers? No.) Even at the beginning of President Bush’s crusade to start a war against Iraq, because of what evidence they thought they had about them having weapons of mass destruction, I thought,
Why is he picking this as his enemy? We support getting the enemy from the 9/11 attacks, and in this case, Iraq wasn’t it, Al Quaeda was (Al Quaeda is only now fighting us in Iraq, since we’ve started trying to liberate Iraq, destroying their breeding grounds).
Okay, This president has supported taking us to war, when it was technically the actual enemy of the ones who originally attached us 9/11. He (and all other Republicans) seem to support life so much otherwise, from the likes of Terri Schiavo to the likes of an embryo that has yet to develop to a life-sustaining form (or even a form sustainable by doctors). This same president find a two-day old fertilized egg more valuable as a life form than a prisoner that is given the death penalty.
Maverick, from Signs of the Times, even wrote in The Thin Line Between Life and Death:
“I just feel that based on the principles that we claim to subscribe to, it is hypocritical to push for death of others as compensation for the death of someone else...
What is really ironic to me is how during many elections, the debate often turns to the fight over abortion rights and the pro-life/pro-choice argument. I remembered President Bush’s speeches on “promoting a culture of life” so well, that I found Promoting A Culture of Life on the web.
But how can you say that you promote a culture of life when as the governor of Texas, you have signed more death warrants than any other elected official alive today? And therein lies the hypocrisy. As much as we often like to say how much we value life, all we do nowadays is judge whose life is valuable and whose life is not. George Bush can execute numbers of people very nonchalantly, but he can fight to the death for embryos that are frozen by scientists (more than likely to never be used) so that they will not be destroyed for stem-cell research. And this is the man that represents America...”

In this culture of Life, we’ve learned to “disregard” some lives. And as I said before, I try not to pay attention to the slanted news, but I did hear something about an ex-gang leader being executed in California, and that every left-wing group protested it.
I better cut in right now and let you know I’m against the death penalty. I could talk about the fact that sometimes innocent people are killed, but more importantly, it’s not supposed to be our decision, or our right to kill people. There are commandments and laws stating we shouldn’t kill (right-wingers even find killing an unborn child abhorrent), so how can we allow killing people who have committed a crime? We may want vengeance wrought on people who have done heinous crimes, but if you want to be mean and vengeful, bring torture back into the game, but vengeance isn’t justice, and there is no justice in killing someone because of something they did.
Back to the story... Stanley “Tookie” Williams is a man who joined the Crips, then founded the Los Angeles west side Crips in 1971. He said it was initially started as a means to keep the streets safe, reducing violence and police brutality, but eventually came to be known to be the one of the most violent and horrific gangs in existence today. The gang is now in 42 states and on at least one other continent: South Africa.
Williams was sentenced to death in 1981 for gunning down a convenience store clerk at a 7-Eleven and killing a family of three at the Los Angeles motel they owned. Though he has always claiming his innocence, trial witnesses even said he bragged about the killing.
There have also been reports of his violence while in prison since 1981, and he spent spent 6.5 years in solitary confinement in the late 1980s for multiple assaults on guards and fellow inmates.
But Williams has become an anti-gang activist during his many years on death row at San Quentin State Prison, and he started writing children’s books about the evils of gang life. As the former leader of such a dominant gang, his voice was heard and understood by some children, and he has done good for helping children stay clear of gang life today. There’s even a web site for his nine books at http://www.tookie.com/booktemp.html.
How much good has he done? I don’t know. I did hear that he was nominated for a Nobel Peace Price on at least 6 occasions for his writing, so I researched it, and found out that you can only be nominated from a college professor in literature and of linguistics, but I also found our from Wikipedia:
“Williams has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since 2001. The first year he was nominated by Mario Fehr, a member of the Swiss Parliament; four additional times he has been nominated by Notre Dame de Namur University Philosophy and Religion Professor Phil Gasper and other professors. He has also been nominated several times by William Keach, Brown University Professor of English Literature, for the Nobel Prize in Literature.”
And it’s true, he hasn’t won a Nobel Peace Prize for his writing. I didn’t win an NEA grant either (and Karen Finley has), so an individual’s talent and merit can’t be judged on winning awards alone. Besides, his not getting a Nobel Peace Prize for Literature doesn’t mean that his writing isn’t valuable.
This is interesting to me because a man on death row was writing, and his writing is doing some good. But his writing isn’t relevant to the fact that he committed a crime. And it does give a mixed message to people about being a good person, if the preacher can’t even atone for his past sins (in this trial) by apologizing or giving information about the murders he committed.
What would Tookie say? Don’t join gangs, kids, ‘cuz it’s not good. But no, I won’t even admit the wrong I did in this murder case.
Reuters even noted this in Real Tookie Williams elusive in death row debate. Because “gang experts dispute Williams’ claims to have founded the Crips and say he has little influence over teens. Los Angeles Police Chief Bill Bratton has said that few gang members had likely heard of Williams before press coverage of his execution.”
And all of this begs the question on whether or not Tookie killed those four people. He always says he didn’t, but we can’t say that witness testimony about him bragging about the “gurgling” noises one victim made before he died are inaccurate. Williams has stated that the police found “not a shred of tangible evidence, no fingerprints, no crime scenes of bloody boot prints. They didn’t match my boots, nor eyewitnesses. Even the shotgun shells found conveniently at each crime scene didn’t match the shotgun shells that I owned.” He says this, while in trial, a prosecution firearms expert testified that recovered shells conclusively matched to Williams’ gun. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger even said (in the New York Times) that the proof of his guilt was “strong and compelling.”
Which leaves us no closer to his guilt or innocence than when we started. All we’re left with are both sides screaming their case, even after the U.S. Supreme Court on October 11, 2005 ruled against Tookie on his final appeal and set his execution date for December 13, and after California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger denied the convicted murderer and former gang leader’s appeal for clemency less than 12 hours before his execution.
But Robert, a reporter from ThugLifeArmy.com, reported in Stanley Tookie Williams Vengeance or Justice:
“Friday evening [Robert] saw a report on BET about how some LA Blood members turned weapons over to a BET reporter for her to turn them into the police. The gesture was one in ‘good faith’, showing that peace is possible.
Now we all know the Bloods and the Crips have always struggled as rivals against each other, and in this show of ‘good faith’ the members of the Bloods told the BET reporter that if they do this to Tookie they can do it to any of us.”
And you didn’t hear anything about this on the news because it’s a shallow effort, and it’s not like the Bloods actually got rid of all their guns. But it does show that there are two very violent sides to this very violent issue.

•••

So, since appeal after appeal failed (all without an admittance of guilt), we waited for him to be executed by lethal injection. And all we’re left with now are the accounts of his death.
So for those who want the eye-witness details, you can go to the San Francisco Cronicle’s web site at http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/detail?blogid=5&entry_id=2145 and follow the link to the PodCast from reporter Kevin Fagan at 1:15 AM, one of 17 media witnesses who witnessed Williams’ 12:35 AM execution.
Agreeing with United Press International, MTV.com reported that “In the end, the execution process took longer than usual as technicians struggled for more than 10 minutes to find a vein in Williams’ muscular left arm. As the team searched, Williams visibly winced and lifted his head off the gurney several times and, according to the Times, at once appeared to say, “Still can’t find it?” Witnesses said his death from the lethal injection took close to 20 minutes.”
The prison warden, Steve Ornoski, even noted to the New York Times that “It depends on the person’s veins and whether they are readily accessible,” not believing this was a difficult execution.
MTV.com added that Williams “ate nothing but oatmeal and milk on Monday, refusing a special last meal and a spiritual advisor. Williams had no last words before being strapped to the gurney.”
Which leaves us no closer to his guilt or innocence than when we started. Which I suppose then begs the question on whether the death penalty was a just sentence for his crime... And you know my slanted view on that one. So let’s get someone else’s...
Marian Liu of the Mercury News noted that “this case raised the question of whether a person who has committed such a heinous crime can redeem themselves?”
She seems to be stuck asking questions too, so maybe we’re not alone here. Reuters brought this debate up, along with the question of whether or not Williams was playing the innocent card instead of the “cold-blooded killer” card, so to speak.
You can listen to the Malibu Times, who wrote that “Once (Stanley “Tookie” Williams, a convicted murderer and co-founder of the notorious Cripps street gang) is dead, the world will be no better a place in which to live than it was before the execution, nothing will have been learned, and all that will have been accomplished is the continuation of a bloodthirsty American tradition.”
The Telescope stated in David A. Love’s story Tookie Williams case reveals death penalty flaws that “America’s love affair with capital punishment is a sordid tale of racial bias, arbitrary justice and state-sanctioned violence.” And “In competition with China, Iran, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia and Singapore (which recently hanged an Australian citizen for possessing 14 ounces of heroin), the United States is in the unenviable position of using the law to kill its fellow citizens.”
The US has to achieve all of it’s goals, I suppose, including being able to kill their prisoners. We’ve just passed our 1,000th execution since the death penalty’s reinstatement in 1976. But even a reporter for The Political Cortex (Brain Food for the Body Politic), who has been a liberal with conservative views on allowing a death penalty, wondered about the number of innocent people who have been put to death. “I think what Tookie Williams has done while in prison is nothing short of amazing and inspirational. He’s gone from unrepentant street thug to ambassador for peace. His critics say that everything he’s done is a sham, that his Nobel Peace Prize nominations are nothing but a PR stunt. They say that at the end of the day, he’s still killed 4 people, ruined the lives of those families forever and must now pay the ultimate price for his crimes. Tookie’s supporters claim that the trial was a fraud, that there was misconduct from every quarter during his prosecution. I don’t know one way or the other.”
Well, neither do I. But when we don’t know, is it then safe to resort to the death penalty to fall back on?
Just remember what Maverick said from Signs of the Times, when he wrote in The Thin Line Between Life and Death: “When Tookie Williams is executed, always remember that we are promoting a culture of life in all things that we do...”




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Chicago poet Janet Kuypers
on all art and all writings on this site completed
before 6/6/04. All rights reserved. No material
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