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Monday, December 12, 2005 

What to Do about Tookie

Prof. McAdams recently made a post about Stanley "Tookie" Williams, death row inmate and founder of the Crips. The CA Supreme Court refused to grant him clemency, so now Williams' only hope is Governor Schwarzenegger. Death penalty opponents and Tookie aficionados have been petitioning the Governor to commute his death sentence, citing Williams' anti-gang books and efforts to steer kids away from crime. There are many aspects of this case that I find interesting.

First, let me make something clear. This post is not about the pros and cons of the death penalty. Those arguments are so old that I can probably argue both sides' talking points from memory with great ease. This post is about one case, and only one case.

Prof. McAdams points out the Hollywood-types who have attached themselves to Tookie's cause. I've always wondered about this. Whether it's Tookie or Mumia or Jack Henry Abbott, celebrities seem to be ready to champion the cause of convicted criminals. My memory may be failing me, but I don't remember many of these stars consoling the families of the victims. Remember the victims? You know, the people that Tookie killed.
Here is what Tookie Williams did
. The links on this page are the crime scene photos of his victims. These are extremely graphic, but I think that people should see them. It's one thing to talk about this case in the abstract, it's another to really take a look at what happened.

Tookie maintains his innocence to this day. His last appeal to the CA Supreme Court claimed yet again that he was innocent. From the article...
In the defense request for a stay of execution, attorney Verna Wefald had argued that Los Angeles County prosecutors failed to disclose at trial that witness Alfred Coward was not a U.S. citizen and that he had a violent criminal history. Coward is now in prison in Canada for the murder of a man during a robbery.

"All of the witnesses who implicated Williams were criminals who were given significant incentives to testify against him and ongoing benefits for their testimony," Wefald wrote.
The people who testified against him were criminals. Color me shocked. You mean to tell me that the founder of the Crips hung out with some shady individuals?! No way. This is common at a lot of criminal trials. Your witnesses are not going to be Eagle Scouts. That's just the way that these things are.

For a man who has supposedly made a radical transformation in prison, rejecting the lawlessness of his past, it seems a little strange that he would try so hard to shirk his responsibility. I would be much more likely to believe Williams' claims of rehabilitation if they weren't so opportunistic. Pleading not guilty didn't work? Appeals didn't work? Try renouncing your past. That might work.

Speaking of opportunism, what about Tookie's planned jailbreak? Here are a few interesting parts...
According to Williams' escape plan, two people from the outside would assist in the plan. (TT 2400). These two people, who would be armed, would disarm and kill the first deputy to exit the bus. (TT 2400). Stanley Williams would then murder Alfred Coward ("Blackie") so as to eliminate the witness against him. Williams would also murder the other deputy on the bus. (TT 2400-2401). Lastly, Williams planned on blowing up the bus and its occupants with dynamite, in order to prevent the authorities from quickly discovering who had escaped. (TT 2403).
Sounds like the plan of an innocent man, doesn't it? I count 2 explicit murders by Tookie himself and 1 by his associates. Add the unknown number of other inmates that would be on the bus when he blew it up and that brings the Tookie body count well into double digits.

Here is the conclusion that I've come to after looking at all of this. Williams is doing anything he can to stay alive. Anything. He killed Albert Owens, Yen-I Yang, Tsai-Shai Yang, and Yee-Chen Lin, and he got caught. He was found guilty (and threatened the lives of the jurors), and then hatched a plan to shoot his way to freedom. His plan didn't happen, so he was stuck in prison. All the while, he still ran the Crips from prison. He personally beat a number of guards and inmates, earning him 6 years in solitary. But then Williams realized that he was stuck. The appeals weren't working and solitary was no fun. He had no options left, so he went for the emotional plea. He cleaned up his act and became a kinder, gentler prisoner. He started writing books to keep kids away from gangs and preached against crime. Strangely enough, he still accepted money from the Crips. I don't think they earned that through bake sales. He has also refused to give police any information on the internal structure of the Crips cause he has "no interest in being a snitch." Boy, he sure is helping where he can with that gang problem, huh? Everything that he has done has been self-serving.

What is Governor Schwarzenegger going to do? I have no idea. I certainly don't envy him right now. He's going to catch hell from people either way. His decision and the reaction to it will be interesting to watch.

EDIT: The link to the pictures of the victims appears to be down right now. I don't know if this is temporary or permanent. I hope it's temporary because it is a powerful dose of reality.

EDIT 2: This blog has the pictures posted. Again, a warning. These pictures are extremely graphic.

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  • I'm Steve
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