Conversation with Stanley Tookie Williams
December 14, 2005 9:20 AM   Subscribe

A Conversation with Stanley Tookie Williams - Amy Goodman had a conversation with Stanley Williams days before he was executed using lethal injection at San Quentin's death chamber. It was good to listen to the audio and following along with the transcript. In listening I kept in mind Williams' violent past, his long incarceration, and his "redemption". I learned something from this. And it was redemption which Ahnold said [PDF] was the reason for no slack. In the end it was Conan the Barbarian who singularly determined Tookie's fate.
posted by rmmcclay (99 comments total)
 
Hard to redeem yourself if you claim you are innocent of course...
posted by A189Nut at 9:24 AM on December 14, 2005


Oh goody. I hadn't heard enough on this subject this week.
posted by spiderwire at 9:25 AM on December 14, 2005


For me, Tookie is not an issue whatsoever. For me the issue is that I oppose capital punishment whether there is "repentance" or book writing or anything. I do not pick and choose. I want DEATH to the death penalty
posted by Postroad at 9:27 AM on December 14, 2005


Thanks so so much for posting this. It shows a side of Tookie that is rarely seen in the media. I heard the interview the day it was originally aired and I beleive he redemed himself becaise he speaks with passion. Although I must say, the Conan link seems like too much. Thanks rmucclay and Amy Goodman.
posted by wheelieman at 9:28 AM on December 14, 2005


Excerpts of the evidence against him here and like A189Nut said, hard to claim redemption when you refuse to admit your guilt.
posted by zeoslap at 9:28 AM on December 14, 2005


Shotgun sweet.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 9:34 AM on December 14, 2005



I have not listened to this yet, but look forward to hearing from Mr. Williams.

I wanted to point out that it was the Mr. Williams that decided his fate a long time ago, and for the past 25 years the judicial system. I have no love of Arnold but in dealing with an issue like the death penalty, I think it trivializes it to say it was in the Governors hands.

The death penalty should not be used, but to then leave the last remaining hope in a politicals hands is just icing on the cake.
posted by fluffycreature at 9:47 AM on December 14, 2005


I can't listen to this here in the office but I'm curious as to what he has to say. I don't get how he can be innocent and also have found redemption, the two seem to me to be mutually exclusive.

Did anyone honestly think Arnold was going to grant him clemency? It would have made him look bad to his GOP cohorts and he can't afford more setbacks. He's hanging on by a thread as it is (which I'd very much like to cut and watch him fall).
posted by fenriq at 9:50 AM on December 14, 2005


Good riddance to bad trash. A cliche but applicable.
posted by mischief at 9:52 AM on December 14, 2005


The death penalty can, and should, be attacked without consideration of the defendant's "character." Almost every defendant facing execution will have "found God," or written a children's book, or claimed to have earned "redemption." Even if genuine, those qualities do little to minimize the grotesque crimes the person committed. Trying to convince people that Williams is a reformed, gentle soul isn't going to win any converts to the cause. Far better to argue that it's worse for the bastards to rot in jail for the rest of their long, miserable lives.

In the end it was Conan the Barbarian who singularly determined Tookie's fate.

Well, no, it was a jury who actually determined his fate. The Governor simply chose not to stop what the jury set in motion. Or, if you want to use your logic, it was the U.S. Supreme Court who, in the end, determined his fate.
posted by pardonyou? at 9:52 AM on December 14, 2005


I'm also opposed to the death penalty on principle, despite the numerous cases that seem to appeal to my own personal instinct for vengeance.

I'm curious though, about why it is that those who oppose the death penalty seem to rally around such piss-poor candidates for clemency. Aren't there any more sympathetic candidates for activism around this issue than the likes of Mumia and Tookie Williams?

Or is it more that the media seizes on these unlikely reprobates because they make challenges to the principle of state execution that much more difficult?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:56 AM on December 14, 2005


Just check out the transcript, fenriq.

On the "redemption" issue, it seems like he's trying to claim that he has reformed and redeemed himself from the general thuggish and gang mentality that he used to be involved in, and not specifically relating to the murders he claims he didn't commit.

Oh wait, all that should've been in the past tense.
posted by Gator at 9:56 AM on December 14, 2005


First of all, what fluffycreature said. People who say this is Arnold's fault should be getting mad at the system instead. His sentence was upheld at every level of judicial appeal. Schwarzenegger should feel compelled to respect in the absence of some truly extraordinary circumstance. Would you rather have a governor who ignores what judges say and does whatever he feels like? I didn't think so. Let's stick to the rule of law.

Second, I'm tired of people bringing up stuff like the Conan thing. "He used to be in action movies" is not a thoughtful political criticism. It's such immature, petty name-calling. It's like the people who refer to Bush as the "liar-in-chief" and "monkey boy." It's just not productive or helpful to anyone.

Reagan used to be an actor too.
posted by TunnelArmr at 9:59 AM on December 14, 2005


Since the original article doesn't mention it, the names and ages of his victims were:

Albert Owens, 26
KYen-I Yang, 76
Tsai-Shai Yang, 63
Yee-Chen Lin, 43
posted by haqspan at 10:02 AM on December 14, 2005


Just let him die already. Jeeez.
posted by nightchrome at 10:06 AM on December 14, 2005


I hope this isn't a derail, but it seems as if there is no real reason to have capital punishment in an enlightened society. The main arguments against capital punishment are pretty clear:

1. The chance of executing an innocent person. There are several well-documented cases of innocent people who are put to death.
2. The potential for Unconstitutional "cruel and unusual punishments" from botched executions. Looking through rmmcclay's howstuffworks link, I found this list of botched executions (Not Safe for Lunch).
3. The expense of a long appeals process to reduce the risk of (1) above. The costs far outweigh the expense of life in prison without parole.
4. The sheer hypocrisy of killing people to show that killing is wrong.

The arguments in favor that I see:
1. "deterrence," which has been disprove numerous times.
2. Retribution/bloodthirst, which seems like something we should be able to move beyond as a society.

I'm willing to entertain other arguments on either side.
posted by JMOZ at 10:17 AM on December 14, 2005


He is, nightcrome. He is.
posted by NationalKato at 10:17 AM on December 14, 2005


On the "redemption" issue, it seems like he's trying to claim that he has reformed and redeemed himself from the general thuggish and gang mentality that he used to be involved in, and not specifically relating to the murders he claims he didn't commit.

what behavior is he redeeming himself from specifically? What does it mean to have a thuggish mentality when it comes to actions? Was he saying that Crips members don't commit murder in general? Has he never been responsible for anyone's death or just these particular examples?
posted by mdn at 10:22 AM on December 14, 2005


If anyone thinks Schwarzenegger made his decision based on anything aside what it would do for him politically then you are deluding yourself.
posted by fenriq at 10:33 AM on December 14, 2005


Is it possible that Tookie didn't know if he did it or not, due to the sherm smoking?
posted by iamck at 10:38 AM on December 14, 2005


Also, MSNBC's Rita "She of the Gravel voiced glee" Cosby interviewed Tookie and then watched him die. Jossip notes that its hard to tell which excited her more.
posted by fenriq at 10:45 AM on December 14, 2005


I'm still puzzled why anyone thinks attaching their anti-capital punishment arguments to this piece of waste is going to advance their cause. And saying Schwarzenegger was the executioner makes them sound even more simple-minded and strident. The merits of the death penalty aren't at issue here. He was sentenced, as far as I am able to tell, under sound circumstances. Frankly, I thought Schwarzenegger's reasoning in rejecting clemency was surprisingly measured and cogent. The descriptions of his crimes make me wonder why anyone would waste a moment's thought on the ramifications of ending his life.
posted by docpops at 10:46 AM on December 14, 2005


If anyone thinks Schwarzenegger made his decision based on anything aside what it would do for him politically then you are deluding yourself.

I imagine he did take into account that public sentiment was overwhelmingly in favor of execution. But the reasons he laid out for rejecting clemency make sense. If Williams had an ounce of class he would have made it plain that he would use his time between appeals to redeem his actions and then accept his fate like a man.
posted by docpops at 10:48 AM on December 14, 2005


If Williams had an ounce of class he would have made it plain that he would use his time between appeals to redeem his actions and then accept his fate like a man.

From all the interviews I've read, even in right-wing media, he's been nothing but accepting of what has happened — all the way up to and including having the needle in his arm. What drives your need to belittle a dead man?
posted by Rothko at 11:05 AM on December 14, 2005


"Is it possible that Tookie didn't know if he did it or not, due to the sherm smoking?"

I hope you're joking... Anything you don't remember from that (fuzzily, but still mostly consistent) is a result of being unconcious.
posted by wumpus at 11:18 AM on December 14, 2005


What drives your need to belittle a dead man?

Mostly the images of his victim's brain and intestinal matter nebulized for all eternity in the ether, and the confused and inexplicable horror his victims felt as they were extinguished. Other than that, not much.
posted by docpops at 11:18 AM on December 14, 2005


"he's trying to claim that he has reformed and redeemed himself from the general thuggish and gang mentality that he used to be involved in"

I figured as much, but did this "redemption" include the acknowledgement and apology for even a single specific act of thuggishness? Not that I have seen. Sorry, but just saying "I was a bad dude and I won't be bad anymore" isn't worth a warm cup of spit.
posted by 2sheets at 11:20 AM on December 14, 2005


I was responsible for Tookie's death. I didn't take the opportunity to assemble a team of mercenary death penalty opponents and mount a raid of San Quentin to save him. It's all on my shoulders.

Me and Rothko, who didn't do his best to comment positively on Tookie's behalf here on the blue.
posted by shoos at 11:28 AM on December 14, 2005


JMOZ, do you care to point me in the direction of further reading on your point #3? I've wondered about that in the past but never actually thought to research it. I suspect that if the argument really holds water, it'd probably reach through to a lot of people who approve of the death penalty largely as a matter of saving taxpayers' money.
posted by kimota at 11:37 AM on December 14, 2005


It's too bad we don't use the electric chair in California. I would have enjoyed watching my lights flicker at 12:01AM.

Die, murderer.
posted by AspectRatio at 11:55 AM on December 14, 2005


Shotgun sweet.

Shotgun bitch!

Sorry about the Fark seepage there...
posted by MikeMc at 12:00 PM on December 14, 2005


kimota: I've found an interesting site on Costs of the Death Penalty from the Anti-capital-punishment Death Penalty Information Center. On the page, they cite a number of studies and references which generally confirm that point
posted by JMOZ at 12:00 PM on December 14, 2005


Amy Goodman spoke at my college graduation. I went to a crazy hippie school that probably wouldn't have granted Stalin the death penalty, but rather, put him time out until he had really thought about how his actions impacted the lives of others.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:00 PM on December 14, 2005


Frankly, I thought Schwarzenegger's reasoning in rejecting clemency was surprisingly measured and cogent.

Why do people keep saying things like this about Arnie? I mean, I'm very very far from a fan, policitally or theatrically, but he's obviously a shrewd and intelligent guy. I'd be more surprised if he didn't issue a clear statement.

I find the reasoning kind of problematic, that said. It's a weird logical area it gets into. Williams says, "I can't be contrite for something I didn't do." Schwarzeneger says, "Well, since you're not contrite, we have to say you're not redeemed." To which Williams says, "Well I can't be contrite for something I didn't do." Ad inifinitum.

It reminds me of hte scene from Raising Arizona. The Parole Board member says to H.I., "Boy, you'd better not be telling us what we want to hear. Because what we want to hear is that you're sincere."

H.I., confused: "Well, then, I guess I am telling you what you want to hear."

Parole board member: "Boy, didn't we just tell you not to do that?!"

I don't really have an opinion on Williams' guilt or innocence. I think the death penalty is a mass of confused motives and contradictions, and that we ought not have it, but then, it's probably no more screwed up than the rest of our criminal incarceration philosophy.
posted by lodurr at 12:02 PM on December 14, 2005


It's too bad we don't use the electric chair in California. I would have enjoyed watching my lights flicker at 12:01AM.

Die, murderer.


YOU TELL EM, DAWG!
posted by iamck at 12:03 PM on December 14, 2005


Actually executing a specific person is cruel and unusual punishment. As of March 2002, California had executed 10 people out of 655 people with death sentences since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. That's 1.5%. During that time more death row inmates killed themselves (11) or died of other causes (22) than were executed. 98.5% of inmates aren't executed, and they're more likely to die of old age, get killed by other inmates, or kill themselves than they are to be executed,. Everyone on death row was convicted of a terrible crime, so what makes Tookie Williams, or anyone else, deserve to die more than the 98.5% of people who won't be executed? Being "sentenced to death" does not mean actually being sentenced to death for the overwhelming majority of death row inmates, so it's unfair to the people who are actually executed.

Here's a chart of California Death Row inmates. Why did the 11 people that were executed deserve to die instead of the 645 people that weren't? Seventeen people who were put on Death Row before Tookie Williams are still alive. How is that fair?

Aren't there any more sympathetic candidates for activism around this issue than the likes of Mumia and Tookie Williams?

Next up in California is Clarence Ray Allen [PDF], who's 75, legally blind, and uses a wheelchair. He'll be executed on January 17, the day after his birthday.
He would be the oldest and most infirm prisoner executed in the United States since the death penalty was restored in 1977, according to his lawyers...."There hasn't been an execution in this country for more than 50 years of someone as old as Ray Allen."
...From behind bars at Folsom Prison, prosecutors said, he masterminded the murders in 1980 of three witnesses from his previous trial and conspired to kill four other witnesses.
"If the state can't execute a man who has killed innocent people from prison while serving a life sentence without parole for murder, then no one is safe."

I found this list of botched executions

Tookie's execution didn't go smoothly. A medical technician had to poke around in his arm for 11 minutes before getting the needle in his vein. He was pronounced dead 15 minutes after they started the injections; apparently it took longer because he was the most muscular man California has put to death.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:22 PM on December 14, 2005


MetaFilter: the most muscular man California has put to death.
posted by fenriq at 12:32 PM on December 14, 2005


Tookie Williams killed four people for about $200 total. He could have taken the money and fled, but he decided to kill instead. Tookie made his first victim lay on his stomach, then he shot him in the back with a shotgun execution style. The gun was actually touching the victim's back when Tookie pulled the trigger.

About two weeks later, Tookie robbed a motel and killed a 76 year old man, his 63 year old wife and his 42 year old daughter, all immigrants from Korea.

None of these people had 26 years to protest their deaths and none of them had celebrities and throngs of people speak out for their right to live. But unlike Tookie, each of these people were INNOCENT.

Gov Schwarzenegger did not kill Tookie Williams, nor did the LAPD or the all white jury or his court appointed attorneys. Tookie Williams killed himself when he decided to murder four innocent people. Fuck Tookie Williams. He was allowed to live for 26 years too long.
posted by b_thinky at 12:42 PM on December 14, 2005


What drives your need to belittle a dead man?

What drives others' need to ennoble him?

Fair question.
posted by jonmc at 12:49 PM on December 14, 2005


I'm still puzzled why anyone thinks attaching their anti-capital punishment arguments to this piece of waste is going to advance their cause.

Because it doesn't matter whether he's a 'piece of waste' or not, the arguments against the death penalty still apply.

The descriptions of his crimes make me wonder why anyone would waste a moment's thought on the ramifications of ending his life.

See above - many of us who are against the death penalty are, well, just plain against the death penalty; the particulars of the crime, and the nature of the criminal being punished are irrelevant. Personally I can think of no circumstances in which it is an appropriate punishment for the state to mete out. (And even if you are into vengance, isn't it a cop out? Ending someone's life seems a pretty nice thing to do, if anything I've heard about prisons in the US is true.)
posted by jack_mo at 12:53 PM on December 14, 2005


Well, I think it's a bit more complex than that. One of the moral arguments against the death penalty (not one of mine) is that people should be given a shot at redeption no matter how horrible the crime. The point behind this kind of death penalty activisim (read for example Helen Prejean) is to bring up the point that people on death row are not rabid beasts that need to be put down, or broken automatons to be destroyed, but human beings.

It's not enobling the people on death row, it's humanizing them.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:10 PM on December 14, 2005


From behind bars at Folsom Prison, prosecutors said, he masterminded the murders in 1980 of three witnesses from his previous trial and conspired to kill four other witnesses.

hey now, there's one argument for a quick, Chinese-style drive-by execution regime.

We get into the "better-safe-than-sorry" vs. "government must endeavor to do no harm" debate.

As a thought experiment, let's say accused Class A felons have, on average ruined 5 other lives in their past, and, on average will go on to ruin 10 more in the future.

From a Utilitarian perspective, it makes sense to just instantly whack any accused felon once sufficient degree of Class-A criminality has been established.

I'm on the "do no harm" side, but one must wonder at the Utilitarian dilemma with this. Is it really better that we should let 10 rapists/murders go rather than convict an innocent man?

The learned but slightly retarded volokh investigates this question here.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:14 PM on December 14, 2005


is to bring up the point that people on death row

This waters down the deterrence, too. For maximal deterrence effect, can't beat the Chinese method of taking the felon-cum-victim out of the courtroom and whacking him in the parking lot.

Our system seems to be maximally screwed up, in many many wonderful ways.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:18 PM on December 14, 2005


What drives others' need to ennoble him?

Fair question.
posted by jonmc at 3:49 PM EST on December 14 [!]


Not at all.

The equivalent "fair" question begs the assumption that someone against the death penalty for this person is also saying that the murder victims deserved their cruel fate.

Nobody is saying that, jonmc. At least no one with whom I've had a good faith conversation about the subject.
posted by Rothko at 1:26 PM on December 14, 2005


I didn't say you or anyone at MeFi was, but there are those in the media who seem to see him as a hero or at least a martyr.

begs the assumption that someone against the death penalty for this person is also saying that the murder victims deserved their cruel fate.

or merely that they assume (against overwhelming evidence) that he's somehow innocent. I'm against the death penalty, too, but I think any honest discussion of this case has to be predicated on the fact that he was guilty and that his crime was particularly despicable.
posted by jonmc at 1:32 PM on December 14, 2005


there are those in the media who seem to see him as a hero or at least a martyr.

There are probably two facts that drive that vision, that are true whether or not one personally supports the application of capital punishment:

1. Death penalties have been and are handed out disproportionately to black men

2. A black man looking like Mr. Williams did in the late 1970s, early 1980s would be unlikely to get a fair trial from an all-white jury

Anyway, terms like "hero" and "martyr" are a bit of a stretch. If you're honest, you'll recognize that of those against his execution, very few have actually called him a saint.
posted by Rothko at 1:40 PM on December 14, 2005


I'm also opposed to the death penalty on principle, despite the numerous cases that seem to appeal to my own personal instinct for vengeance.

Part of the reason that I am opposed to the death penalty is because of the numerous cases that appeal to my own personal instinct for vengeance. Satiating the bloodlust of the mob using a system that is overwhelmingly biased in favour of the state and which makes many mistakes is, all in all, an utterly unacceptable combination.

In Williams' case, I agree with the "cruel and unusual" argument. Further, if the system is going to be unusual in the application of the death chamber, why Williams and not some other guy? Williams, moreso than any other person on death row, showed that he had some value to society. He wrote childrens' books. He was an advocate for anti-gang activism. He worked, and worked hard, to educate kids and keep them out of trouble.

He was a murderer and deserved to rot in prison for the rest of his days, yes. But he also had some value to society, and this value is no longer available to us. He's no hero. He's no martyr. He is no no way noble. He was a stone killer and career criminal -- but he was a stone killer whose continued existence may have benefited us further.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:02 PM on December 14, 2005


Well said solid-one-love
posted by Smedleyman at 3:11 PM on December 14, 2005


So now he was doing good things behind bars rather than arranging murders.

I'd bet that if he had accepted responsibility for his actions, and begged clemency, he would have stood a better chance to see christmas than the insistance on his innocence.

You can oppose capital punishment, but an admited gang kingpin is the last posterchild you want for this kind of thing.

Why couldn't the left wing find a nice retarded black guy who was sentenced to die by a coerced confession?
posted by Megafly at 3:14 PM on December 14, 2005


So now he was doing good things behind bars rather than arranging murders.

I see no evidence that he was arranging murders while behind bars. At least, he was never charged with such a crime, much less convicted of it. On the other hand, there is ample evidence for the good works I mentioned above.

Why couldn't the left wing find a nice retarded black guy who was sentenced to die by a coerced confession?

I don't consider the death penalty a left/right issue, and this was borne out when my country refused to bring it back into law in a vote under a Conservative government.
posted by solid-one-love at 3:21 PM on December 14, 2005


JMOZ, you left out the biggest argument for the death penatly, and one that I've never seen a repudation of, namely that it prevents recidivism.
posted by nomisxid at 3:29 PM on December 14, 2005


rothko: as I said in the other Williams, thread, I've come around to being anti-capital punishment, for a variety of reasons. And as a very anti-crime and pro-law enforcement person, who was for most of his life very pro-execution (somewhat incongrously compared my leftward leanings on most other issues) I feel I have something to offer the conversation, if only in offering ideas on how to persuade others.

I belive that most of the emn on death row are guilty and most have committed heinous crimes and I honestly don't have much sympathy for them. But what brought me around was the "what if" of executing an innocent man? (and we've had enough close calls that this isn't a specious concern) Do we want an innocent man's blood on our hands as a society? And, if you consider yourself a law-and-order type of person, consider this: if an innocent man is executed then another man got away with murder. Justice miscarried exponentially.

So, I always preface my discussions on the topic by admitting that yes, these guys are scumbag murderers and even in the most compassionate liberal there's a hearty disgust for their deeds, but that I don't want the results I've listed above.

Just one man's approach, for what it's worth.
posted by jonmc at 3:29 PM on December 14, 2005


megafly, the person who was convicted of arranging murders from behind bars is the 75 year old blind guy still on death row. Of course I find it unlikely that in the 20+ years tookie was on death row, as founder of the crips, he never once told someone on the outside to 'get' someone.
posted by nomisxid at 3:31 PM on December 14, 2005


jonmc, that's all well and good but what about the case of a death row inmate who's still pulling the strings for his troops that are still free? How do you deal with someone who's continuing to cause violence and pain on the outside? It is cruel and unusual to cut people off from all contact with other people but, save execution, I don't see how this hypothetical prisoner could be dealt with.

And no, I'm not saying Tookie had people rubbed out while he was behind bars. Its not beyond the realm of possibility.

And, by the way, people saying Tookie was doing good things behind bars might want to ask themselves if he'd be doing any of those things if he had been on the outside. I sincerely doubt it.
posted by fenriq at 3:42 PM on December 14, 2005


Albert Owens, 26
KYen-I Yang, 76
Tsai-Shai Yang, 63
Yee-Chen Lin, 43

Executed by Williams. What a hero.
posted by Joeforking at 4:06 PM on December 14, 2005


jonmc, that's all well and good but what about the case of a death row inmate who's still pulling the strings for his troops that are still free? How do you deal with someone who's continuing to cause violence and pain on the outside? It is cruel and unusual to cut people off from all contact with other people but, save execution, I don't see how this hypothetical prisoner could be dealt with.

Well, we're beyond legal territory into philosophical territory here, but hypothetically, how about we still allow him contact but have it all monitored, since ultimately the safety of innocents has to come first, and the very idea of imprisonment means forfieting some of the rights that free people enjoy. Although a truly enterprising criminal to put his orders into some kind of code, which would make it even more difficult. If I had the ultimate answer to that question, I'd be thanking the Nobel academy, not typing little screeds here, dude.
posted by jonmc at 4:25 PM on December 14, 2005


Tookie robbed a motel and killed a 76 year old man, his 63 year old wife and his 42 year old daughter, all immigrants from Korea.

If those names posted upthread are correct, they were not Koreans. Those are not Korean names.

Die, murderer.

Thank you for your insightful commentary. Just the kind of thing that keeps us comin' back for more!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:55 PM on December 14, 2005


JMOZ: "The arguments in favor [of capital punishment] that I see:
1. "deterrence," which has been disprove numerous times.
2. Retribution/bloodthirst, which seems like something we should be able to move beyond as a society."


Well, I don't want to derail, but here are my two cents, since it seems somehow distantly connected with the case at hand.

I agree with you that these two reasons are bad reasons to execute someone. First, it doesn't necessarily deter, and there are always other options if you want to have a deterrent. Second, revenge should obviously have no part in a judicial system whose aim is justice.

However, there is a third reason why a state might execute someone: out of pity, and for the well-being of the person being executed. That may sound insane, but I really believe that there are some acts from which there is no recovery, the mere contemplation of which will either make the rest of a person's life wretched or drive them insane. I can't imagine being a whole person and looking back on having raped a child, for example. And I think those unfortunate souls who have to look back on such things should be put out of their misery.

Of course, I don't think that's why the state executes most people nowadays. At least, I haven't seen it. So state execution should probably be ended. Also, this has little to do with the conundrum of Tookie Williams.

posted by koeselitz at 5:01 PM on December 14, 2005


Albert Owens was shot not once but twice at point blank range with a shotgun. That says alot to me about Tookie's rage and hatred.

jonmc, it is definitely speculative but its also real world, there's some discussion about Saddam passing along instructions by his actions in the courtroom in Iraq.

Its this issue that bothers me the most about lifetime imprisonment. They've got nothing left to lose so why not run their empire from behind bars? And it seems like that's a pretty obvious failing of the "justice system" if justice hasn't been served. Not that I'd imagine the prisons are rife with gang kingpins running the show from inside. It is an exceedingly tough nut to crack though, I'll give you that, for sure!

stavros, this NPR timeline link says they were immigrants from Taiwan. Better?
posted by fenriq at 5:02 PM on December 14, 2005


Begs the question: If prison isn't there for reform, and being in prison makes someone more dangerous, why don't we just execute every prisoner?
posted by iamck at 5:59 PM on December 14, 2005


In the end it was Conan the Barbarian who singularly determined Tookie's fate.

No. It was Stanley Tookie Williams who determined Mr. Williams' fate. Just saying.

And because it bears repeating again:

Albert Owens, Kyen-I Yang, Tsai-Shai Yang, Yee-Chen Lin
posted by dejah420 at 6:30 PM on December 14, 2005


a very anti-crime and pro-law enforcement person

I don't get this. how on earth does that make you special? are you saying there are lots of people - other than, you know, criminals - who are pro-crime and anti-law enforcement?
posted by mr.marx at 6:49 PM on December 14, 2005


Bear in mind that the only reason you know this person's name is because he founded a criminal organization responsible for thousands of brutal, senseless murders done in his name.

That he was ever allowed to publish a book, give an interview, or have his name used in the presence of right-minded sane individuals, based only on this infamy, is a crime against humanity.

Stop posting about him. Let him be forgotten along with the names of all his thousands of innocent victims.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:39 PM on December 14, 2005


No thanks, ikkyu2. Ignoring a complex problem doesn't make it go away, even in America.
posted by Rothko at 7:54 PM on December 14, 2005


Let him be forgotten along with the names of all his thousands of innocent victims.

Godwin much? But maybe you should listen to the interview. He founded the crips when he was 17 years old. Makes it a wee bit difficult to pin everything they've done on him now, doesn't it?
posted by iamck at 7:54 PM on December 14, 2005


jonmc: You bring up one of the reasons why I keep introducing David Dow's book into this discussion. As a death row lawyer, he has no illusions as to the fact that many of his clients are guilty. But even assuming guilt, it's usually not the most extreme, most violent, and most hateful people who get the death penalty. It's the people who get caught by incompetence, systematic bias, or overt malice in the system.

The earlier Supreme Court ban on the death penalty didn't have anything to do with excessive cruelty, or innocence on death row. But rather it pointed out that getting the death penalty rather than getting 20-life was like getting hit by lightning. It had nothing to do with the qualities of the crime committed.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:15 PM on December 14, 2005


If prison isn't there for reform, and being in prison makes someone more dangerous, why don't we just execute every prisoner?

Because stealing someone's car is slightly different than killing four innocent people execution style.
posted by milnak at 9:51 PM on December 14, 2005


Everyone who wonders why the movement against the death penalty champions candidates like Tookie or Mumia who are a "piece of waste" or generally not very nice, there really aren't any saints on death row. If anyone who is at all sympathetic is sentenced to death, that movement is going to latch on to them as fast as they can.
posted by ScottMorris at 11:02 PM on December 14, 2005


Uh, nomisxid, isn't life without parole just as effective in preventing recidivism as the death penalty?
posted by jenii at 11:11 PM on December 14, 2005


None of these people had 26 years to protest their deaths

it's true.
it's also true that Williams killed all of them them very quickly, he didn't spend 11 minutes jabbing their arm with a needle like the State of California and Gov Schwarzenegger did the other night, while our MeFi law-and-order brethren loudly cheered.

bah.

anyway I love it how Williams' victims have all resurrected right after his execution. I mean, if Williams were still in his cell imprisoned for life (no parole), like all of us anti-death-penalty commies hoped, his victims would be still be dead now. instead, lo and behold, a miracle -- his victims are back now that the Babylonian gods thirst for blood has been quenched with Williams'.

also, a modest proposal: you could start barbecuing the executed person's remains -- see, many poor people could be fed with that tasty meat. or, quite a few death penalty supporters could have a nutritious post-execution meal.

you know, it seems like a waste to simply bury all that hi-protein goodness.
posted by matteo at 12:31 AM on December 15, 2005


An execution never makes anything better. An execution only empties a few more lives and fills one more grave.
posted by ubernostrum at 4:17 AM on December 15, 2005


jenil, and nomisxd, as a number of people have pointed out, you can still be responsible for crimes even when you're in jail; that is, the recidivism is only prevented once you're dead, or somehow forced to be incommunicado. I'm just saying; I haven't made my mind up either way and still need to read what JMOZ linked to for me.
posted by kimota at 5:30 AM on December 15, 2005


Every Republican should send a personal thank you note to Tookie's posse -- nothing better demonstrates the disqualification of the left to govern than their pleading for the lives of the savages on Death Row.
posted by MattD at 6:47 AM on December 15, 2005


An execution never makes anything better. An execution only empties a few more lives and fills one more grave.

An execution of the right person is justice, and quite possibly, a deterent.

The question is whether a our justice system, or any justice system can assure that only those who murdered are put to sleep.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:49 AM on December 15, 2005


it's true.
it's also true that Williams killed all of them them very quickly, he didn't spend 11 minutes jabbing their arm with a needle like the State of California and Gov Schwarzenegger did the other night, while our MeFi law-and-order brethren loudly cheered.

A five-year old should be able to come up with more convincing rhetoric.
posted by docpops at 6:50 AM on December 15, 2005


I don't get this. how on earth does that make you special?

I'm not claiming to be special, I mainly said it as away of defusing the tired "criminal coddling liberal," crap that usually accompanies these discussions, since even though I do lean leftward, I have very high regard for law enforcement officers and very little patience with criminals.

it's also true that Williams killed all of them them very quickly,

Well, let's give him a medal for showing restraint. There are plenty of good arguments against capital punishment, but that was particularly weak.
posted by jonmc at 6:51 AM on December 15, 2005


nothing better demonstrates the disqualification of the left to govern than their pleading for the lives of the savages on Death Row.

if you cannot name at least one prominent, national office-holding Democrat in the last 25 years whose positions are similar to "Tookie's posse", well, you're just trolling. and lamely at that.

if you think that Al Sharpton adn Jesse Jackson are running America, well, watch less Fox "News".

really, Clinton and Gore are anti-death penalty? Kerry was about to free all those black big scawy people from Death Row, let them loose to terrorize your neighborhood and spill watermelon seeds on your lawn, MattD?

*snicker*
posted by matteo at 7:18 AM on December 15, 2005


There are plenty of good arguments against capital punishment, but that was particularly weak.

25 minutes to kill a prisoner is not too long, it is not cruel and unusual punishment? seriously?
posted by matteo at 7:20 AM on December 15, 2005


also, jon: that your government is unable to kill a man quickly and more painlessly than a street thug usually does, well doesn't it constitute a good argument against death penalty?
posted by matteo at 7:22 AM on December 15, 2005


First of all, I gotta wonder whether a poison that puts you to sleep is "more painless," than a shotgun blast to the face, but my main point is this, the way you worded that comment sounded uncomfortably close to dismissing the crime itself (which I'm sure wasn't your intention, but this is an emotional issue), which kinda tends to make the whole discussion get bogged down in inanities.

The best argument against the death penalty (and most effective when it comes to convincing others) is the possiblility of executing an innocent.
posted by jonmc at 7:35 AM on December 15, 2005


Along with the danger that the innocent are more likely to be irrevocably punished by a state with the death penalty (id est by being executed), there's the less often voiced but more pragmatic objection that it may make it more likely that guilty people will go free. Certainly in the UK shortly before the abolition of hanging, juries were applying such a rigorous burden of proof to capital cases that prosecutions felt unfairly penalised.

I may be a bleeding-heart liberal - in the terms of this debate, I almost certainly am - but I think that if I knew that my decision to convict would lead to somebody being killed, I'm not sure that I would not instinctively ratchet down the allowable doubt, as my decision might subsequently force me to live with the knowledge that I had been a participant in the execution of an innocent person.

Of course, your reluctance may vary, especially if you have grown up in a country which makes jury duty on capital crimes a possible condition of citizenship.
posted by tannhauser at 7:35 AM on December 15, 2005


Along with the danger that the innocent are more likely to be irrevocably punished by a state with the death penalty (id est by being executed), there's the less often voiced but more pragmatic objection that it may make it more likely that guilty people will go free.

Is there an echo in here? I said the same thing multiple times in both threads. It's also stating the obvious: that when an innocent man is punished, a guilty man gets away with a crime. Double whammy.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in the corner coversing with the wall.
posted by jonmc at 7:39 AM on December 15, 2005


ounded uncomfortably close to dismissing the crime itself

straw man. and a bad one. "against death penalty = pro Crips"??? this is really beneath you, jon.

by the way, are you still beating your girlfriend? I hope you stopped.


The best argument against the death penalty (and most effective when it comes to convincing others) is the possiblility of executing an innocent.

are you familiar with all the people freed by DNA evidence when they had been sentenced to die? I guess you are. we all saw how well that worked.

look, jon, I don't care about the others, but you, of all people, how can you not be disturbed by the US being in the company of China, Sudan, Belarus, Pakistan and others in the pro-death penalty side, when the rest of the industrialized world has moved long ago toward abolition?

also: jon, as a white guy, you're massively less likely to end up on death row than a black guy is. it's really strange that as an egalitarian, this doesn't disturb you -- it is a pretty appalling show of inequality at work. what about incompetent representation jon? all those public defendants falling asleep in court?

and seriously, Christ, 25 minutes is not cruel and unusual for you?
posted by matteo at 7:45 AM on December 15, 2005


I said the same thing multiple times in both threads. It's also stating the obvious: that when an innocent man is punished, a guilty man gets away with a crime.


Not what I said. Perhaps you might want to read the rest of what I wrote before striking up that conversation with the wall, lest you give it a false impression of your eerie prescience.
posted by tannhauser at 7:51 AM on December 15, 2005


matteo: at this point I think you're more trying to "win" the argument, but you seem to have forgotten something: I'm on your side. I'm merely making a point about how to maybe convince all those who might not care so much about the guily man's suffering.

And obviously, the issues you mentioned bother me, but like I said, I'm just making a different point. You can take it or you can leave it.

straw man. and a bad one.

I'm not saying that's what I believe. I'm saying that's what people hear. They see it as handwringing over a vicious murderer, rather than a fundamental question of morality. Fell free to disregard what I'm trying to pint out, but that won't stop me from doing it.
posted by jonmc at 7:51 AM on December 15, 2005


at this point I think you're more trying to "win" the argument

75% of Americans in favor of death penalty, jon. I'm not trying to win anything. it's lost already. I'm just making a point. anyway:
"Twenty years have passed since this court declared that the death penalty must be imposed fairly and with reasonable consistency or not at all, and despite the effort of the states and courts to devise legal formulas and procedural rules to meet this...challenge, the death penalty remains fraught with arbitrariness, discrimination...and mistake...

From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death. For more than 20 years I have endeavored...to develop...rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor...Rather than continue to coddle the court's delusion that the desired level of fairness has been achieved...I feel...obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed. It is virtually self-evident to me now that no combination of procedural rules or substantive regulations ever can save the death penalty from its inherent constitutional deficiencies... Perhaps one day this court will develop procedural rules or verbal formulas that actually will provide consistency, fairness and reliability in a capital-sentencing scheme. I am not optimistic that such a day will come. I am more optimistic, though, that this court eventually will conclude that the effort to eliminate arbitrariness while preserving fairness 'in the infliction of [death] is so plainly doomed to failure that it and the death penalty must be abandoned altogether.' (Godfrey v. Georgia, 1980) I may not live to see that day, but I have faith that eventually it will arrive. The path the court has chosen lessen us all."
Justice Harry Blackmun
"Dissenting Opinion:
Callins v. James"
February 22, 1994


"lessen us all", jon.
posted by matteo at 8:04 AM on December 15, 2005



75% of Americans in favor of death penalty, jon.


Well, if we want to change that, we have to ask ourselves why. And not facile answers like simple racism or bloodthirst. Those are factors, but those things also exist everywhere, so we gotta dig deeper.
posted by jonmc at 8:18 AM on December 15, 2005


That's another interesting thing about the death penalty - it is popular. However, not every state in the US has it. In the UK, although a popular majority would reinstate it, no major political party has ever countenanced restoring it - even Margaret Thatcher, no shrinking violet on getting what she wanted, although personally in favour of restoring the death penalty did not risk trying to apply the whip on a vote over it.

(There were actually capital crimes in the UK until 1999, but they were miltary offences not levelled since the Second World War.)

That probably comes to a question of to what extent legislators and politicians are seen as implementing the general or specific will of the people - for example, a government may feel that it has a broad mandate to impose lower taxes, but chooses not to follow an exactly psephological pattern on what taxes to raise or lower.
posted by tannhauser at 8:24 AM on December 15, 2005


25 minutes to kill a prisoner is not too long, it is not cruel and unusual punishment? seriously?

That time wasn't spent torturing him - it was spent finding a vein, and then waiting for the poison to take full effect. Have you ever been anesthetized? It sometimes takes a little while to have effect but it doesnt' hurt. And finding a vein - that's nothing. I was in the hospital a couple weeks ago and they had to try four times to find a vein (leaving me with three big bruises where they failed). But it most certainly was not cruel and unusual punishment. It was a very minor pain, really.

i can't help thinking that if they'd killed him by a gunshot to the head, you'd take issue about that, too. I'm with jon on this - I'm against capital punishment primarily due to practical concerns, but I feel like too much of the anti-death penalty advocates give too much credit to people like stanley williams. The interview linked here was particularly weak. Amy Goodman would not have thrown such softballs if she'd been interviewing bush, y'know? He said he was redeemed: but what specific acts does he regret? a "thuggish mentality" is not something one needs absolution from - the acts that resulted from that mentality are. Did he ever note what precisely he took responsibility for? I mean, how was his 'take responsiblity' attitude any more sincere than the prez's currently belittled adoption of a similar line? It's as if people just side with whoever's on their 'team' without really looking at the behavior involved...
posted by mdn at 9:02 AM on December 15, 2005


Have you ever been anesthetized? It sometimes takes a little while to have effect but it doesnt' hurt.

I think the difference there is that you're not expecting the anaesthetic to kill you - that is, 10 minutes spent finding a vein is more harrowing if you're about to be injected with poison rather than with anaesthetic. Compare being shot in the head to having a revolver with one bullet in the chamber placed against your temple - you know that eventually one of those pulls of the trigger will kill you, but the first couple are still a whole lot of no fun.

Whether that makes it cruel and unusual in a legal sense, rather than just not very nice, is trickier - until fairly recently executing the mentally handicapped was not considered cruel or unusual in the US, for example. From my perspective as a Brit, all the mechanisms on offer seem a bit unusual...
posted by tannhauser at 9:16 AM on December 15, 2005


even though I do lean leftward, I have very high regard for law enforcement officers and very little patience with criminals

nope. still don't get it. sorry.
posted by mr.marx at 9:29 AM on December 15, 2005


although personally in favour of restoring the death penalty did not risk trying to apply the whip on a vote over it.

they'd have to opt out of the EU first. you can't have the death penalty and be part of the union. just ask the Turks.


And not facile answers like simple racism or bloodthirst. Those are factors, but those things also exist everywhere, so we gotta dig deeper.

I stated what my opinion is already. I think it's cultural, it's a very deep-seated American phenomenon -- like the horror for very mild measures of gun control (see for example the 1994 assault weapons ban), the "we're the only industrialized nation without comprehensive government health care" thing, the school shootings thing. it's cultural.

like monster trucks, or wrestling, it works for America, but it doesn't really work anywhere else.

it's OK, really. as I said elsewhere, you don't like the death penalty, move to Boston. or to Europe.

if you like challenges, move to Texas and join an anti-death penalty campaign there, and good luck.


Have you ever been anesthetized? It sometimes takes a little while to have effect but it doesnt' hurt.


as others have pointed out, with anesthesia you usually hope you're going to wake up.

***

i can't help thinking that if they'd killed him by a gunshot to the head, you'd take issue about that, too.

yeah, I'm such a commie. complain to your congressmen -- they're the ones who abolished the gas chamber (bad WWII memories, I guess) and the electric chair (the executed's heads had the bad habit of blowing up quite often, smearing everybody with gore and shit -- it was, strangely, tought inhumane).

a shot in the back of the head, if you're pro death penalty, is a less cowardly choice -- it takes a fraction of a second, not almost half an hour.

you could also have the relatives of the murdered pull the trigger, like they do in Saudi Arabia! that's fun. Fox would televise that, pay per view.
posted by matteo at 10:38 AM on December 15, 2005


And not facile answers like simple racism or bloodthirst. Those are factors, b
As of April 1, 2005, 3,452 convicted murderers were awaiting execution on Death Row in United States, including 36 on Federal Death Row and 07 on U.S. Military Death Row.

CURRENT DEATH ROW BY RACE

White 1,572 (45.5%)
Black 1,440 (41.7%)
Hispanic 359 (10.4%)
Asian 040 (01.2%)
Native Am 040 (01.2%)
Unknown 017 (00.5%)
posted by matteo at 10:41 AM on December 15, 2005



posted by matteo at 10:44 AM on December 15, 2005


they'd have to opt out of the EU first. you can't have the death penalty and be part of the union. just ask the Turks.

As I said, Margaret Thatcher. The HRA, which forbade all forms of capital punishment, was signed at the end of 1998 and, IIRC, ratified in 1999, quite a while after Margaret Thatcher ceased to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Before that, capital punishment still existed for about five military offences - mutiny, failing to prevent a mutiny, that sort of thing - but nobody had been executed for those crimes since 1942 or thereabouts.
posted by tannhauser at 10:44 AM on December 15, 2005


tannhauser,

when that policewoman was murdered last month in the UK and Metropolitan Police chief said he was in favor of reinstating the death penalty, I seem to remember that polls didn't seem to give that idea a lot of traction, not even in theory. I don't have any hard data though.
posted by matteo at 10:52 AM on December 15, 2005


Data point: Lethal injection. Most people envision something clean and easy; it's a bit more complicated than a needle-prick. In particular, the initial injection in the sequence is regarded as somewhat controversial:
The effect of dilution or improper administration of sodium thiopental is that the inmate dies an agonizing death through slow suffocation while fully conscious, yet unable to express any pain. While pancuronium bromide paralyzes skeletal muscles, including the diaphragm, it has no effect on consciousness or the perception of pain or suffering. For this reason, the use of paralyzing agents for the euthanasia of animals like cats and dogs has been made illegal — either directly or by reference to the American Veterinary Medical Association's panel on euthanasia, which prohibits the practice generally [6] — in at least 19 states, including Texas, the state that executes the most people by lethal injection. However, the use of these agents for execution continues.
So, basically, what we're doing is drugging the condemned so that he appears to be at peace as people watch him die. We could be a bit more honest about it by just putting a clear plastic bag over the condemned's head.

To paraphrase Omar Bradley, it might be too bad executions aren't more awful....
posted by lodurr at 11:32 AM on December 15, 2005


matteo: That was the former Metropolitan Police Chief, Lord Stevens, not the current one, Sir Ian Blair, who as far as I know only supports execution for foreign nationals found attempting to use public transport in the Greater London area.

I don't have any polling figures on capital punishment recently - there hasn't been the time to do much more than phone-in polls yet, I suspect. The most recent YouGov polls on capital punishment both took place in 2003, when 56% and 62% of those polled said that they supported the return of capital punishment in the UK for the killing of a police officer. Figures were higher for serial killers and, I would guess, higher again for child murderers. A majority of respondents in the UK have been in favour of capital punishment (either retention or return) consistently since World War 2, so I'd be reasonably surprised if the data taken just after the murder of Sharon Beshinivsky bucked that trend.

What's relevent is that almost no credible politician in the UK would come out in support of the death penalty, outside the extreme wing of the Eurosceptic right - the unsuccessful candidate for the Conservative party leadership, David Davies had as shadow home secretary called for the return of execution for cases in which guilt was utterly uncontentious, and the populist UKIP almost certainly support it if only as a wedge issue on Europe. Although a simple majority of Britons want to see capital punishment, only a small minority of MPs would vote for it - which is something I rather like about representative democracy, although I can see how it might hack off the committed execution fan.

Meanwhile, it seems that Arnold Schwarzenegger's home town, Graz, is seeking to distance itself from him after this high-profile witholding of clemency - there is talk of changing the name of FC Sturm Graz's stadium from the Arnold Schwarzenegger stadium. This seems a bit harsh, but might serve to illustrate just what a rift issue this is between US and European politics...
posted by tannhauser at 3:15 AM on December 16, 2005


as others have pointed out, with anesthesia you usually hope you're going to wake up.

? that's completely irrelevant. that is nothing to do with the method of execution but only the fact of execution. I understand that you're against the death penalty, but don't confuse the issue by claiming to be against the method of execution. The method itself is not painful or tortuous. The fact that you have full knowledge that your life will end may be considered psychologically tortuous for some (though socrates dealt with it pretty well) but that is a different issue from the method of death. This is like that "this food is terrible - and the portions are too small" argument. If it were me, lethal injection would be my choice - it certainly seems preferable to a gunshot to the head or the electric chair.

yeah, I'm such a commie. complain to your congressmen

I'm anti-death penalty myself; I just don't like distracting arguments. The way I see it, if you don't have a position on it you would advocate, don't get into the fight - so unless you would honestly advocate the position (i.e., would consider it a victory if it were put into law) that the method of death were changed from lethal injection to gunshot, then you're just making noise.
posted by mdn at 7:35 AM on December 17, 2005


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