Monday, December 12, 2005

"Took(ie)" for a ride 

At last, it seems, the rollercoaster ride through the California justice system has come to a halt. Having resisted the urge to comment on the Tookie debacle long enough, the Governator's decision to refuse clemency has provided me with the perfect opportunity to lay down a few thoughts. Not surprisingly, they can be encapsulated well in Arnold's own words:
"Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption."
(the emphasis is unfortunately mine)

In the weeks leading up to his final appeal, and finally to the day of his execution and refused clemency, there has been a sudden surge of interest in the case, and particularly in Stanley "Tookie" Williams himself. With a conviction nearly 25 years ago, and a process of appeals that borders on obscene, it seems only now that the "peace, love and good feelings" crew has opted to get involved. They are noticeably absent from the trial process, and seem to have little to say for the victims of Williams' horrific crimes. Instead, as is often the case among that particular group, they have struck up the cause of saving Williams' life from a racist and corrupt death penalty (in their own words). As usual, more attention is being paid to Snoop Dogg than to the victim's family. The usual Hollywood types have emerged from the ideological woodwork to engage the disinterested public, produce soundbytes and hang out with Jessie Jackson and Jamie Foxx.

The LA County District Attorney has produced a point by point retort to the latest cause celebre, but I am particularly disgusted by the argument being made about his supposed "redemption" while behind bars. As Governor Schwarzenegger noted himself, Williams has indeed sought to speak out to the youth against gang violence, and apologized for the violent ways of the gang he helped to found. Yet he has not apologized once, or even taken responsibility, for the brutal killings for which he was convicted. If he committed the crimes and is in fact a changed man, why not heart-felt and teary-eyed confession? And if he's innocent, then how could he have "atoned" for a crime he didn't commit? If every criminal who faced certain justice could get off the hook by writing a children's book, we wouldn't have much of a justice system left. What's more, those who trumpet his "death row conversion" seem to ignore his dubious record of disciplinary infractions while behind bars. Convenient how his redemption only got going when he had run out of options. I can't really say I find shower fights, assault, attacking people with "chemicals" and threatening police officers to be particularly "atoned" behavior. But to those who are always willing to accuse the system and "the man," words always speak louder than actions. When in doubt, heart strings and Hollywood eh?

25 years ago, Williams was convicted by a jury of his peers. For the subsequent decades, every level of the judiciary has upheld that conviction, and sentence, and the compelling body of evidence, and Williams' own words have only strengthened the case against him. Justice isn't about revenge, and in this much the "Save Tookie" crowd is right. Justice is about redemption, and balance; but without atonement and true retribution, clemency is not justice. We should not look upon taking any life lightly, but SaveTookie is wrong: the true injustice would have been for Schwarzenegger to play the role of the divine and redeem a man who has not redeemed himself. At some point, justice and the law must be carried out, lest they be rendered irrelevant. Stanley Williams will be executed for four brutal murders, and at last put an end to a saga that has raged on far too long. May God have mercy on his soul.

Andrew, why isn't justice about revenge? At least in part, I'd say justice is about revenge. That's why it's so hard to define, I mean, we've been trying since Plato wrote the _Republic_, and haven't solved this one yet.

Certainly I want Osama to get a few bullets in the 'ol brain out of no other reason than pure, delightful revenge (although there are other reasons as well, despite the fact that this reason is more than enough for me).

Extra-judicial actions like terrorism aside, I still don't see why revenge doesn't play into this. Maybe you can tell me why, but the way I see it, sometimes death is necessary. I was leaning towards no death penalty on Saturday, but then I realized that justice is a concept that requires one to not go to an extreme either towards no killing or all killing. Part of justice is balance (see the statues of Justice with the scales, heh).

So, tell me why killing Tookie for revenge, after we've made sure he actually did it (there is no doubt, after the review in this case at least, about his culpability in the murders--that may not be true in all cases, but it is in this one)? It only seems just.
Killing him after we know he did it and he's been sentenced to death isn't really much of "revenge," but check out the new post here for my response and some thoughts on justice, revenge, mercy etc.
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