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TERMINATOR TO WILLIAMS: "HASTA LA VISTA, TOOKIE!" – II

By Richard E. Wise, PhD, PMC  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Stanley "Tookie" Williams is dead, dispatched on Tuesday morning by the good folks of California. He was euthanized shortly after midnight Pacific Time at San Quentin Prison.

Euthanized? Isn't that what you do to an old dog?

Yes it is. The only real difference is that Williams' execution team took 35 minutes to do what a veterinarian would accomplish in about 35 seconds. And, of course, the dog doesn't know what's happening.

Wait a minute: for blowing away four people with a shotgun you get "put to sleep"? What kind of punishment is that?

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It does seem a little absurd, doesn't it? That's because it is absurd.

Don't get me wrong. I am fundamentally opposed to the death penalty because I believe it is morally wrong to kill another person. I am practically opposed to it because in this day and age it is simply absurd.

Execution today is the last act in a warped public policy version of the childhood game, "Let's pretend." Let's pretend that this is going to make any difference in victims' lives, or in the crime rate, or in the number of street gangs. Let's pretend that this is some kind of ultimate punishment (more so than life in prison without parole? Euthanasia would be a release from such punishment.)

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Let's pretend that this is symbolic and that somehow the right people will take the right lesson from it. Let's pretend that we are impeccable in our logic and infallible in our decisions. Some of us may even pretend that we are "doing the Lord's work," although anyone who can create the Firmament in six days can probably smite Tookie Williams hip and thigh without our help. Above all, let's pretend that justice is being done.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger took the game of "Let's pretend" to a sublime level with his tortuously-reasoned decision to deny Stanley Williams clemency. When all the bafflegab is stripped away, the decision let Stanley Williams die is nothing more than George W. Bush logic with a Hollywood veneer.

Consider the final decision in this latest round of "Let's pretend." First, the decision recites the facts of the case. The governor feels the need to elaborate these facts even though the clemency request was not based on any quarrel with the facts.

Then, noting that the clemency appeal is based on the "personal redemption Stanley Williams has experienced and the positive impact of the message he sends", Schwarzenegger observes that "Williams' claim of innocence remains a key factor to evaluating his claim of personal redemption. It is impossible to separate Williams' claim of innocence from his claim of redemption."

That statement might stand on its own if it were allowed to (although I disagree with it). But Schwarzenegger achieves the very separation he says is impossible when, on page 5, he asks, "Is Williams' redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise?" If it really were impossible to separate a claim of innocence from a claim of redemption, then the point would be moot.

Williams never confessed to the crimes and that fact works against him in the clemency decision. But does the defendant not have a right under the Fifth Amendment to maintain his innocence? The fact that he exercised a Constitutional right should not militate against him.

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The governor points out that Williams was a co-founder of "the Crips, a notorious street gang that has contributed to ... predatory and exploitative violence", including "countless murders." Apparently Williams is somehow responsible for these deaths despite having spent the last quarter-century in jail. If that kind of "third-hand guilt" is a bona fide reason to deny clemency, how then should we consider the culpability of a president whose invading armies have contributed directly to the deaths of 30,000 Iraqis and 2,300 Americans in just three years?

For good measure, Schwarzenegger gratuitously observes that although Williams has written books that encourage readers to avoid the gang lifestyle, "the continued pervasiveness of gang violence leads one to question the efficacy of Williams' message." That is a low blow. Maybe it leads one to question the efficacy of the LAPD, or the efficacy of the LA schools: maybe gang members just don't read too good.

One is left to wonder, if Williams had confessed to the killings, expressed remorse and contrition, apologized to the victims, and convinced the governor of his sincerity, would his sentence have been commuted? If the answer is yes, then somebody should have told Williams. If the answer is no, then this whole line of reasoning is pointless and irrelevant.

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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

more detailed bio: 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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