Stan "Tookie" Williams is a peacemaker on death row.
He has been nominated 5 times for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in helping to prevent gang violence.
He has been nominated four times for the Nobel Literature Prize for his children's books that warn young people about the pitfalls of joining a gang and exposes them to alternatives.
He maintains innocence of the crimes he was accused of, and faced racist discrimination throughout his trial. One issue highlighted the fact that the prosecutor in Tookie's original case removed three African-American jurors from the jury. During Stan's trial, this prosecutor made racially-coded remarks during his closing argument, comparing Stan during the trial to a Bengal tiger in the zoo and stating that a black community - South Central Los Angeles - was equivalent to the natural "habitat" of a Bengal Tiger.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Tookie on his final appeal and set his execution date for December 13. Thus they disregarded 9 of the 24 Ninth Circuit Court judges' assertion that the District Attorney at Tookie's trial employed "reprehensible and unconstitutional" racist tactics, using animal-in-a-jungle metaphors to refer to Tookie and to the South Central environment in which he lived. This landmark ruling means that minorities can now legally be rejected from juries based on race. This is now the law of the land.
Please visit www.savetookie.org and see how to get involved in the campaign to save the life of this peace activist. 1,000 executions is enough!!
I think the real question is, did he or did he not kill those people? If he did, he belongs right where he is, no matter what was said to the jury.
My father worked on the education side of the California Department of Corrections. I've done some work on crime and punishment myself (I'm an academic.) There is one truism: virtually no one in prison admits to their guilt for the crime they are incarcerated for.
Tookie Williams' saying he's innocent of the crimes he was convicted of just don't carry much (if any) weight.
On the other hand, the facts surrounding his trial are troubling. Prosecutors ought not be allowed extra peremptory challenges to remove blacks from a jury panel, nor should they be allowed to make racially biased remarks in their arguments.
I'm personally opposed to the death penalty, for the simple reason that we have proven that we cannot administer it fairly. So, I support clemency for Williams (and for every person on every death row in the country.)
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