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By Richard E. Wise  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)     Permalink
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It's 3:00 PM on the east coast, on Sunday afternoon, December 11, 2005. On the west coast, at California's San Quentin Prison, Stanley "Tookie" Williams has 36 hours to live. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been mulling over Williams' clemency plea since at least Thursday. If Schwarzenegger decides to proceed with the execution, he will prove himself to be the "girlie-man" of the still-young 21st century. Killing Stanley Williams is not a real man's decision, commuting his sentence to life without parole is. That's a decision that takes visionary leadership, moral conviction, and political toughness. A decision to allow the execution to proceed is no decision at all. Arnold could catch up on his beauty sleep and Williams would be dispatched on time. Schwarzenegger may "decide" to execute Williams following the logic of George W. Bush. "(In) every case I have reviewed I have been comfortable with the innocence or guilt of the person that I've looked at. I do not believe we've put a guilty ... I mean innocent person to death in the state of Texas." (GWB, National Public Radio, 6/22/2000) Imagine, some time in the next 36 hours, the Governator may emerge sweating and winded from the Executive Mansion to announce that, after many days he has wrestled the question to the ground, and Tookie Williams is guilty. All that work, all that grappling, all that angst, just to answer the wrong question. The question for Schwarzenegger is not whether Tookie Williams is guilty. His guilt has already been established, affirmed, and reaffirmed by the California Courts. The question before the governor is, given his guilt, is there any reason attaching to the defendant, that is, any moral, social, or other reason why the sentence should be commuted? Political reasons don't count where a person's life is at stake; those reasons attach to the governor, not to the defendant. The defendant is not a political asset or liability, he's a doomed man. Yet during his 24 years on death row, Williams has found religion, written nine books urging young people not to follow him into a life of crime, and garnered several nominations for the Nobel Peace and Literature prizes. So this should not be a hard decision for any thinking person, for any moral person who knows his own heart and soul. Are there times when state-sanctioned killing is justified? What if there are doubts as to the integrity of the evidence? Does the power of redemption have any operational meaning? If it does, how high is that hurdle? And what if he really was convicted based on shoddy forensics? What if you are wrong? These questions would be too hard for George W. Bush. He would not even understand the questions, much less appreciate the answers. Will Schwarzenegger prove himself to be W's intellectual equal? Time will tell, but I'm afraid too much time has already elapsed. If Schwarzenegger were going to decide on the basis of his own moral convictions or a belief in the power of redemption, he would have done it by now. It's not too late to commute Tookie Williams' sentence to life without parole. Thirty-five hours from now, it will be.

Richard E. Wise, PhD, PMC ValueNet International Inc.
Hartford, CT


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