Monday, December 26, 2005

What Really Took "Tookie" Under?

When I began this article, I began with the knowledge that many of my fellow black folks may take offense to my statements contained herein. As a matter of fact, I expect that some people will call me names and delete my blog’s bookmark from their Internet favorites page. Oh well, that’s happened before and believe me I got over it.

Have you ever felt that you were in this world alone? Not by yourself, because there are always people around you, but alone in the way you think and experience life? No, this is not a commercial for Zoloft. This is a test of the Emergency Rational Thinking System (ERTS). Is yours functioning properly?

For the past month or so, many people, (especially Black people) have been up in arms about the Stanley “Tookie” Williams death row case. Of course we all know that Mr. Williams was executed pursuant to the laws of the State of California on December 13, 2005, but the story does not end there.

Now I seriously thought I could go about my business without commenting on the Tookie case; mainly because I thought that most people’s ERTS was operating at full power. Nevertheless, when I woke up this morning on this first day of Kwanzaa, I had to explore the reasons why on this day of unity, I view Tookie Williams as a criminal, yet so many other Black people view him as a hero.

“It's nine-fifteen on twelve-thirteen and another black king will be taken from the scene," exclaimed Snoop Dogg during the funeral services for Stanley Tookie Williams.

Wait! What? The first thing I need somebody to do is to explain to me how Tookie Williams, co-founder of the deadly Crips street gang was a king. Yes, he was a Black man, but a king does not that make him. Okay hold it, I’m going too fast, let’s back up. First we need to understand the positions; the who believes what and why. Here we go:

~Some folks believe Tookie was innocent.
~Some folks believe the death penalty is wrong no matter what.
~Some folks just wanted camera time.
~Some folks think the system is racist.
~Some folks think the punishment should fit the crime.
~Some folks believe that Tookie was a redeemed man and deserved clemency.

Was Tookie innocent?
I needed to know the evidence for myself before I wrote this piece. I sourced the case on WestLaw and found some very interesting information. I found that while Tookie’s proponents claimed that the witnesses that testified against Tookie were all jailhouse informants and/or accomplices themselves, the truth is that there were people who testified against Tookie who were not facing jail sentences nor were they criminals. There were regular folks that testified that Tookie purchased a shotgun at the Western Surplus store on Manchester and Western Avenue in Los Angeles. At trial, a firearms expert concluded that a shotgun shell found at the Brookhaven motel murder scene came from Tookie’s shotgun. Others testified that Tookie bragged about killing 4 people, including the 3 “buddaheads” on Vermont Avenue. Wow, he bragged about it. That is serious and sick all at the same time. Also, entered into evidence were notes that Tookie wrote from prison. Some notes detailed escape plans that included killing prison guards. Other notes indicated that Tookie wanted to kill Blackie (one of his accomplices in the 7-11 murder) because he felt Blackie was a punk who couldn’t eat after they had blown away their victim. Yeah, come to think of it, this sounds like stuff and innocent man would say.

“That's my role model, man. That's the CEO of the Crips," gleaned “Killowatt the Third” at Tookie’s funeral.

What’s wrong with the Death Penalty?
Candlelight vigils outside the prison gates, riddled with impassioned pleas to spare the life of someone who more than likely ignored the pleas of their victims who asked to be spared and allowed to live. Am I missing something here? Why should my tax dollars be used to allow a murderer or rapist the ability to work out in the prison weight room or watch the Soprano’s and Curb Your Enthusiasm while their victims lay six feet under - cold and dead?

Contrary to popular belief around this piece, I believe that unless you are severely retarded, you know the difference between right and wrong. When a man or a woman takes it upon themselves to blow three people away in cold blood for $100.00 and bragging rights in the streets of Los Angeles, that man or woman deserves to die the same way his or her victims died if not worse. All this lethal injection stuff is for the fricken birds. The victims don’t get to die with dignity so why should the perpetrators?

One reason many countries don’t have the crime that the United States has is because they don’t fuck around with coddling criminals. You steal; you get your hand cut off. You kill for no reason or for reasons unrelated to self-defense, you get killed right back. Here in the U.S., you can drive-by an apartment building, shoot 2 babies and an old lady while you listen to G-Unit, and even if you get caught, you can still get off with a 15 years-to-life sentence. Therefore, if someone wants to know what I think about the death penalty, I agree that it may not be applied fairly, but frankly, I also don’t believe it is applied enough.

Blame The System?
There are droves of people out there that believe we should blame the system for our black bad fortune. We all know that poverty, racism, lack of education, drug abuse and gang violence among other things are all products of a racially biased country called America and her system of treatment towards people of color. We know that! But where I have to draw the line is where people think that the system, while a contributing factor to our distress, can be used as an excuse for people to harm, kill, rob or otherwise destroy. For a criminal to make the lame excuse that “the system made me shoot that nigga” is ridiculous, but some people buy into it.

I went to the poorest high school in my city, but we had AP English, AP Physics and AP Calculus. I didn’t take the Calculus, but we had it. We had young men and women who grew up poor, but they weren’t trying to rob and murder people. Okay, we had some that were…but the majority were law-abiding citizens who went to school and tried to get a good education. Many of these students are successful today despite the obstacles they faced. How did they do that? How did they overcome? They had the will to do right. They knew right from wrong regardless of the system. The kids I knew that were in gangs, the Tookie’s of the schoolyard, they also knew right from wrong. They chose to do wrong and while it might not matter if they stole socks from the swap meet, when they escalated to non-defensible murder it was over. They had reached the point of no return and I for one had no sympathy for them.

The system kicks me in the face in some fashion on a daily basis, but I choose to fight the system back instead of knocking a bitch out, snatching her $100.00 chain and then blasting her in the back with a shotgun.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s conclusion…


Anonymous said...

Waset, I agree with many of your points and my personal take on Tookie is if he had truly rehabilitated and had turned his act around, i.e., if he truly was turning the lives around of those who had gone astray, I think it was an injustice to put him to death. I am for the death penalty but I am also for rehab. If rehab works for that prisoner, then life in prison should be an option. However, if it does not work, then the death penalty should be carried out. Many times we make the death penalty strictly about the prisoner and not about the victim. And yes, I know often times, killing a person of color will not result in the death penalty, but its justice for the victim and the victim's family. We must ask ourselves does rehab means rehab or is it a word thrown out there for fodder.

John A. Wooden
Author of "A Moment of Justice, A Lifetime of Vengeance"

Sanimac said...

Waset, I agree with just about everything you said. However, I have to say that, although I am completely for the death penalty, it is unfairly used to punish murderers of color, and this topic continues to be a point of contention in our communities. Jeffrey Dahmer (a WHITE murderer!!!) raped, sodomized and ATE his victims, yet he received life in prison without parole instead of death, even though a fellow inmate did us all a favor by taking care of Dahmer (an example of "penitentary justice!"). And we all have heard of Charles Manson and the Manson Family. Can somebody explain to me why we're keeping that demon alive, and even allowing him to APPEAL for release from prison? I understand that the law at the time did not include capital punishment, but SOMETHING should have been done about the problem called Manson, and I don't mean draining the pocketbooks of law-abiding citizens by allowing that fool to breathe the same air as you or I! Stanley "Tookie" Williams was no saint, but it did appear to me that he was reformed, or at least trying to change from the monster he had once been. It's too bad that his reformation was not viewed as "good enough" by the powers that be, especially when a$$hole$ like Dahmer and Manson seem to get a "free pass". Yet, Tookie's legacy has been one of violence and destruction as one of the founders of one of the world's most ruthless gangs (the Crips, for those who ain't knowin'), and for this, Stanley Williams, refomed author and Nobel Prize nominee, paid the ultimate price. I feel for the victims of Tookie's crimes, and I hope the families were able to gain some measure of closure; however, I think Sharon Tate's blood (and the other "Family" victims crying out for justice) is on our hands because, as was done to Tookie, so we should have (and STILL SHOULD) gotten rid of Manson. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

Please...the last 3 people killed under the death penalty were white. That doesn't seem racist to me. While I am not for the death penalty, I do believe that Tookie was wrong, and was NOT rehabilitated. Rehabilitation defined under the rules of the parole and clemency boards includes repentance for your crimes. Tookie spent his time in prison writing children's books about gangs. Not once did he ever even admit to committing the murders for which he was convicted, much less show any remorse for the lives that he took. He was wrong, he was not sorry, and, by definition, he was not rehabilitated. He was a thug, a poor example to black men, and by no means a king.

Thuso said...

Thanks for reminding us that we have an Emergency Rational Thinking System (ERTS). Every now and then, an issue flares up that drowns out our ERTS. This is one of those issues. I too believe that Tookie was guilty, but our system cannot apply justice swiftly, so some criminals become larger than life while they leverage the justice system's appeal process to write books and deliver radio broadcasts. This doesn't make them "not guilty."

I struggle with the death penaly. I was in South Africa when they were writing a new constitution and 90% of the people on death row were Black. The decision that country made was to abolish the death penalty, rather than execute all those convicted under a corrupt system. It seems that no system of justice can fairly apply the death penalty as long as humans are biased in any way. In that country, prison life is no picnic with television privileges and media exposure.

As long as we allow everyone the "right to bear arms" our system is a part of the problem. So we reap what we sow. That doesn't mean that we should disable our ERTS because the system may be corrupt.

Thanks for bringing some facts and clarity to this dialog. If it is true -- "Crips don't die, we multiply" -- the nightmare isn't over.


Anonymous said...

Well, you have done well to write your article, but most of followers will never read it.
They will know that you said Tookie was a criminal!
He was and for what he did his image will grow, and we will suffer a few more years of it.
Too bad you and I can't get the minds of our people like the
They are all pulling the wool over our peoples eyes!

Anonymous said...

Oh Waset,

I cannot agree more with what you said. I have suffered personal tragedy at the hands of the Crips street gang. You'll never know what it is like to see your brother lying in a pool of blood because he lived in a blood neighborhood and some Crips drove through and shot him. Anyone that would make a hero out of a person guilty of this type of crime is really missing the head.

Atria Greyson

Anonymous said...

Waset, I have to agree with all that you have said. We tend to elevate people of controversial stances especially the criminal element among us. For some reason, we are easily swayed to the wrong direction but hard to lead aright.

I am sure that Tookie did alot of good with the time that he had to try & convince kids not to join gangs...and that is a good thing. He told them that if they followed in his footsteps that they'd end up in prison like him. Now to me the ultimate sacrifice, especially is he is guilty, was to show them that you also have a shot of laying down your life for living the cold blooded thug-life. We must stop the criminal acts & the killings in our communities...otherwise the system with let our innocent die at the hand of murderous thugs & give mixed signals when it comes to executing the perpetrators. And no, Tookie was not a king. God will have mercy on his soul & that is the best that we can hope for. JW

Conrad Duncan, MD, JD said...

ouch. I was taken aback by your staunch support of the death penalty.
you took the time to unscientifically "compare" our crime rates to those of other nations. you are correct in the fact that many of the lowest crime rates on earth exist in countries with the harshest of penalties (indonesia) but there are also very low crime rates in countries that do not have the death penalty (norway). the bottom line is that sociologists have statistically and scientifically shown that the death penalty is NO deterrent to crime.
morally bankrupt people don't actually figure the punishment factor into their daily belly crawls thru life.
tookie williams is (oops, was) not wired correctly and we could argue 'til the cows come home how he got that way, i frankly don't know. and i ALMOST don't care because it doesn't make any difference to his victims. he was a cold blooded murderer and is personally indirectly responsible for killing hundreds if not thousands of others because of his infectious legacy. but the bottom line is that the business of killing other humans is not a business that humans should be in. i am no pacifist and it is sooooo lame to bring up the old "if you had one bullet and it was 1939 and hitler was standing in front of you... blah blah blah blah".
what we are talking about is the institutional (hint hint US government) sanctioning of putting people to death. bad idea. just like you paint a bright-line test in your treatise that people, no matter what environment their raised in, should know right from wrong...i too have a treatise; killing people is wrong, bright-line, very simple.
now let's briefly talk about the jeffrey dahmers and charles masons of the world. the inequity of the application of the death penalty really should bother you. and i was very surprised to see that it wasn't enough of a reason to put you on this side of the fence. there have been some great books written over the past few yrs on this issue with which i'm sure you are familiar. if you ever have to be reminder of the systematic killing of black people by the government (albeit MOST of them guilty of heinous acts) just tune into the next episode of your favorite real life crime show on A&E and see who gets the needle and who doesn't. oh, and lest not overlook that very important word in the sentence above, "most". how many innocent people, black, white, green or purple being put to death are acceptable 'collateral damage' for you? hummmm, you surprised me.

Conrad Duncan, MD, JD

Anonymous said...

The answer: The white liberal organizations that used him as a test case for the death penalty, instead of sticking to the qualities of his case. Most people seemed to miss the fact that the audiences on television at first were all white; then started including a black woman or two, until they brought in the rap stars and entertainers and, at last, the NAACP and civil rights celebrities, deftly changing the audiences all black -- right before our eyes. The white hand is quicker than the black eye, and black men can jump farther than they can see.


Anonymous said...

Interesting commentary and commentaries.. I respect her right to Free Speech.. She raised a few valid points. I don’t know whether Stanley Williams committed the crimes attributed to him or not, but he clearly was not the same individual in 2005 that he was when he entered the penal system in the late 70’s. I’m sure that there are many persons who have been granted clemency who were far less deserving than Stan Williams. Clemency was not going to put him back on the streets.. I see it as a cowardice move by the Governor of Cali not to grant clemency.. He had nothing to lose by allowing him to live. He was going to be in prison for the rest of his life.. His death and his good works are probably what has and will continue to elevate his status in years to come.

Although Stan was a criminal.. He was at least productive in a positive way during his incarceration… I have no problem seeing my tax dollars go to support someone like the Stanley Williams of the past 12 – 15 years, but I would’ve had a problem with supporting the Stanley Williams of the late 70’s and early 80’s.. But this is what made his plea for clemency so important. The Governor clearly sent the wrong message if in fact he wants to reform the penal system in the state of California. If this man who won a Nobel Prize in Literature, and has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize is not worthy of clemency, then who is? This man who knew he would never be free again could have just continued to be a Nightmare in prison, but he devoted himself to doing positive things to keep our young people from following in his footsteps!! Hell, he even did community service spots on television.. If he was not worthy of clemency, why in the HELL would you allow him to be plastered all over the television in your state?!?!? That is cruel and unusual punishment in itself!! Now all black people in California who by chance find themselves in trouble aren’t even going to try to reform themselves.. They have NO HOPE!!

The Apostle Paul was one of the worst murderers of his time, but he found GRACE, MERCY, & REDEMPTION and became on of the largest proponents of Christianity the world has ever known.. He is the author of most of the books in the New Testament of the Bible. Had he been stricken down before his SALVATION would we be Christians and/ or other Believers today??

Okay… I’m off of may soapbox now…