Jewish World Review Dec. 15, 2005/ 14 Kislev,
The redemption of Tookie Williams
Stanley "Tookie" Williams, convicted multiple murderer and co-founder of the notorious
street gang the "Crips," died via lethal injection at 12:35 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2005, in San
Quentin State Prison. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, only hours before Williams'
scheduled execution, refused to grant clemency.
Who was Stanley "Tookie" Williams, and why did so many people want his life spared?
The Crips, co-founded by Williams in 1971, became a national indeed, international
gang responsible for thousands of deaths. In 1981, a jury convicted Williams of murdering
four people, and he was sentenced to death. Williams claimed he was innocent, a victim of a
racist criminal justice system. He partnered with a writer and co-authored several anti-gang
children's books. Williams apologized for founding the Crips, renounced his membership and
urged others to do the same.
The usual suspects came out in support of Williams' clemency Hollywood stars and
anti-death-penalty advocates. But so did the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP).
The NAACP took out an ad in the Los Angeles Times and began a four-city tour urging the
governor to grant Williams clemency. Bruce S. Gordon, the new president and CEO of the NAACP,
called Williams the organization's "secret weapon" in combating gang violence. Gordon also
suggested that race played a part in Williams' conviction and noted that the criminal justice
system "makes mistakes."
About the death penalty, according to the NAACP's website, the organization opposes it:
"The NAACP has long opposed the death penalty because in many states there has been a
disproportionate number of African-Americans sentenced to death, particularly when the crime
involves a white victim."
But where was the NAACP's opposition to the death penalty back in 2000? The
organization ran an ad during the 2000 presidential campaign of then-Gov. George W. Bush. The
ad with a voiceover by the daughter of James Byrd, the man dragged to death by three men in
Jasper, Texas attacked Bush for not passing enhanced hate-crime legislation. Bird's
daughter, in a dramatic voice, said, "(I)t was like my father was killed all over again." But
two of the three men convicted of killing Byrd had already received death sentences, with the
third, who testified that he attempted to stop the other two from committing the murder,
getting life without possibility of parole.
The NAACP ad, in essence, says that Byrd's killers should have been punished more
harshly. So apparently white bigots deserve the death penalty, but a black multi-murderer who
founded a street gang does not. All clear now?
Williams claims redemption, but refuses to accept responsibility for murdering four
innocent people. Williams shot one victim, Albert Owens, who worked at a 7-Eleven, twice in the
back, after Owens pleaded for his life. Williams, 11 days later, gunned down the owners of a
small motel, a family of three.
According to Gov. Schwarzenegger's decision refusing clemency: "Williams ... robbed a
family-operated motel and shot and killed three members of the family: (1) the father, Yen-I
Yang, who was shot once in the torso and once in the arm while he was laying on a sofa; (2) the
mother, Tsai-Shai Lin, who was shot once in the abdomen and once in the back; and (3) the
daughter, Yee-Chen Lin, who was shot once in her face. For these murders, Williams made away
with approximately $100 in cash. Williams also told others about the details of these murders
and referred to the victims as 'Buddha-heads.'"
Consider the following hypothetical. David Duke, former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux
Klan, murders, in cold blood, four innocent blacks. But, wait. Duke later renounces the Klan
and pens children's books urging white kids to reject racism. But he refuses to accept
responsibility for the murder of the four innocent blacks, claiming that a racist jury
convicted him for his reputation, not for the murders. Imagine Snoop Dogg, Jamie Foxx, Ed Asner
or the NAACP organizing a campaign to spare the "redeemed" Duke's life.
Williams' life inspired the movie called "Redemption." But a truly redeemed Williams
would have said: "This is what happens. This is where you end up when you think the rules do
not apply to you; when, because of anger and rage, you kill innocent people. I accept
responsibility for what I did. I apologize to the family members. Please understand that I was
not a victim of a racist, unfair criminal justice system, and I urge all criminals to first
look into the mirror before blaming the police, the judges, the system. I made choices that put
me here. The lesson of my life is no matter your circumstances, your race, your class you
are responsible for making proper moral decisions. It is your duty to do so."
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JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of, most recently, "Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America."
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© 2005, Creators Syndicate