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October 2018



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"Why do we kill people who kill people to show people that killing is wrong?"

At 12:35am (3:35am ET) this morning the state of California murdered an innocent man, Stanley Tookie Williams.

Can you imagine being locked in a cell and told that on a certain date people were going to come and take you a special room, stick a needle in your arm and poison you to death? Can you imagine how you would feel on that day strapped to a chair, looking out at the room full of people who have come to watch you die? Sitting there while the pleasant, gentle but firm, people try to find a vein in your arm to stick in the needle that will bring your death. Knowing that screaming or begging will not change anything. They will kill you, and there is nothing you can do to convince them to stop.

Well, I suppose there are worse ways to die. More fraught with pain or distress, slower more painful ways to leave this life. Would you rather be shot in the back twice during a robbery? Watch your family murdered as well?

I don't think Tookie Williams committed the murders he was convicted of. Mostly because he maintains he didn't, and if he had admitted his guilt and apologized he had a better chance of getting his sentence commuted. Plenty of people would have confessed to murders they didn't commit to save their own skins. But I tend to respect people who won't confess even if it costs them their lives.

Not that he's totally innocent. He did start the Crips gang. And he has apologized and openly repented for that which tends to support the argument that if had committed the murders he would have confessed and repented for them.

But for me his guilt or innocence is not the big issue. I mention it because doubt is an issue for some people. For some people the possibility that we are murdering innocent people is a compelling argument against the death penalty. For me the fact that we are murdering any people is a compelling argument against the death penalty.

"Redemption" has been the rallying cry for Tookie Williams. His defenders have argued that his statements of remorse and his work, writing children's books against gangs, are proof of his redemption sufficient to warrant clemency.

Well, at least he actually did something to counter the evil he started. Better than Karla Faye Tucker who's argument seemed to be that just being "born-again" was sufficient for redemption. If you need a reason not to kill people actions should speak louder than words (not that Karla Faye Tucker's words helped her with our sociopathic president. At least Arnold doesn't gloat when he sends people to their death.)

J and I used to be on different sides of the death penalty debate. Now we are on the same side for different reasons. He recently told me that he has come to be against the death penalty because he has come to see that the life of a criminal is just as valuable as his, that all human life has inherent value. He is against the death penalty because he can see the criminal as his equal in humanity.

Strangely I have always been against the death penalty for exactly the opposite reason. I am against the death penalty because I think I'm better than a murderer and I don't want to stoop to their level. A state that kills criminals is no better than a murderer and citizens who condone the death penalty are morally responsible for the murders the state commits.

I can understand killing someone who is trying to kill you, or killing someone by accident, or killing someone who is trying to kill someone else. But once you have someone locked up you have no moral basis for killing them and the death penalty is just premeditated cold blooded murder.


Whether or not he was guilty, he was willing to pay his debt to society as best he could. I think the governor should have commuted his sentence to life in prison.