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Author Topic:   Death Penalty and Stanley Tookie Williams
RAZD
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Posts: 19871
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Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 1 of 166 (268462)
12-12-2005 9:53 PM


The Death Penalty Is Not Pro-Life
By Marjorie Cohn
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Monday 12 December 2005

In 1960, Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown agonized about whether to grant clemency to death row inmate Caryl Chessman. Brown's refusal to commute Chessman's sentence haunted him for the rest of his life. He reversed 23 death judgments in the last 7 years of his term. Ronald Reagan, who defeated Brown in the 1966 gubernatorial election, used the death penalty as a weapon to unseat the incumbent governor.

Twenty years later, Rose Bird, one of the greatest chief justices ever to serve on the California Supreme Court, lost her confirmation election largely because of the way she voted in death penalty cases. In all 64 capital cases that came before her during her tenure, Bird voted to overturn every one. Her court as a whole reversed 61. Some of Bird's supporters advised her to affirm just one death verdict in order to win confirmation. Bird refused. She said, "It is easy to be popular. It is not easy to be just."

Republican Governor George Deukmejian and President Ronald Reagan both campaigned against Bird. "The defeat of Rose Bird was significant because it created a new danger in [California], the danger of politicizing a judicial branch that had not previously been subject to political pressures," Court of Appeals Justice J. Anthony Kline observed. Reagan's opposition to judges who "save the lives of killers" helped him in his bid for the presidency.

The fate of Stanley Tookie Williams now rests in the hands of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The governor is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't spare Williams's life. On the one hand, Schwarzenegger is under pressure from right-wing Republicans to refuse clemency. But there's also high-profile pressure on him in California to grant clemency and prove his campaign claims that he really is a moderate.

When Schwarzenegger denied clemency to Donald Beardslee, the governor was the subject of a mighty backlash in his native Austria, which has outlawed the death penalty. And he must deal with his conscience, much like Pat Brown did in 1960. Schwarzenegger said the Beardslee decision was "the hardest day" of his life.

If ever there was a condemned man who deserved clemency, Williams is the one. A co-founder of the Crips gang, Williams has undergone a remarkable transformation in the 24 years he has been in prison. The author of several children's books that decry gang violence (65,000 have been sold to schools and libraries), Williams has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1993, Williams videotaped a message from death row supporting a truce between the Crips and the Bloods. He said, "Working together, we can put an end to this cycle that creates deep pain in the hearts of our mothers, our fathers, and our people, who have lost loved ones to this senseless violence." The videotape was shown during a peace summit meeting attended by over 400 gang members. If Schwarzenegger refuses Williams's plea, what message will it send to our children?

By granting clemency to Williams, Schwarzenegger would affirm the ideal of rehabilitation he claims to favor. A governor's pardon of Williams would signal that people can be redeemed, that mercy, not just retribution, is a worthy goal. "I have a despicable background," Williams said. "I was a criminal. I was co-founder of the Crips. I was a nihilist. But people forget that redemption is tailor-made for the wretched."

But even if Schwarzenegger pardons Stanley Tookie Williams, we must ask ourselves if we want to continue to engage in the state-sponsored killing of our people. "The reason to oppose capital punishment," the Los Angeles Times wrote in a recent editorial, "has to do with who we are, not who death row inmates are. The death penalty is inappropriate in all situations because it is unbefitting of a civilized society. Williams' case, though poignant, is irrelevant to this argument."

As it deliberates the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito, the Senate must also deal with what it means to be "pro-life." Alito, who claims to be pro-life when it comes to abortion, is pro-death when it comes to the death penalty.

During his tenure on the Court of Appeals, Alito has shown little solicitude for death row inmates bringing habeas corpus petitions, particularly claims based on ineffective assistance of counsel and racial discrimination in jury selection. His positions in these cases run contrary to recent Supreme Court decisions emphasizing the importance of both race-neutral jury selection and constitutionally adequate counsel.

In 2001, Alito voted to affirm the death judgment of an African-American man convicted by an all-white jury in Delaware. The prosecutor had struck all prospective African-American jurors from the jury pool. That same prosecutor had struck every prospective African-American juror in 3 other capital murder trials in the same county during the prior year. When Alito refused to infer racial discrimination from that pattern, he said, flippantly, "Although only about 10% of the population is left-handed, left-handers have won five of the last six presidential elections ... But does it follow that the voters cast their ballots based on whether a candidate was right- or left-handed?"

A majority of the full court accused Alito of "minimiz[ing] the history of discrimination against prospective black jurors and black defendants."

Stanley Tookie Williams, an African-American, was also convicted and sentenced to death by a jury cleansed of all prospective African-American jurors by the prosecutor, based on the testimony of paid police informants. Williams maintains his innocence.

If confirmed as a Supreme Court justice, Alito would have a powerful influence over whether many of our citizens live or die. In the past 5 years, the Court decided only 3 cases concerning abortion, but over 3 dozen involving the death penalty.

Capital cases are complex and often laden with error. A recent study at Columbia University found that 67 percent of death penalty cases had been reversed for serious constitutional error. Recurring features in these cases include prosecutorial or police misconduct; the use of unreliable witness testimony, physical evidence, or confessions; and inadequate defense representation. There is a growing number of cases where DNA or other evidence has proved conclusively that death row inmates are factually innocent. In some cases, that evidence has surfaced too late - after innocent people have already been executed.

The United States is the only Western democracy that still executes its citizens. In 2004, 97 percent of all known executions took place in China, Iran, Vietnam and the United States. Several major international human rights treaties eschew the death penalty. None of the 3 international criminal tribunals - the International Criminal Court, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda - permit the death penalty as a sentencing option for the most heinous of crimes over which they have jurisdiction.

Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments, according to Amnesty International.

"The deliberate institutionalized taking of human life by the state is the greatest conceivable degradation to the dignity of the human personality," US Supreme Court Justice Arthur L. Goldberg wrote in a 1976 article in the Boston Globe. We must not be a society that rewards the meanest judges and elected officials. Let us choose and affirm life, not death.

Marjorie Cohn is a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, President-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the US representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. She writes a weekly column for t r u t h o u t.

I've never understood the prolife\prodeath position.


Replies to this message:
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 Message 77 by 1.61803, posted 12-14-2005 1:55 PM RAZD has not yet responded

RAZD
Member
Posts: 19871
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 4 of 166 (268696)
12-13-2005 7:44 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Silent H
12-13-2005 4:15 AM


doesn't make sense. He's dead.
You can be pro-punishment and pro-life by advocating life imprisonment as an alternative.

One either believes in the concept of rehabilitation or one doesn't, and it seems to me that personal rehabilitation is one of the basic concepts of religion.

You can be pro-redemption\rehabilitation and pro-punishment and still advocate a reduction in punishment for recognizable action demonstrating redemption\rehabilitation.

One also needs to balance positive contributions to society against negative to come to a just punishment.

http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/12-2-2005-82919.asp

Stanley Tookie Williams, 51, former co-founder of the infamous Crips gang, who like many inmates incarcerated in our judicial system is supposedly reformed and has found religion. Williams has authored several children’s books aimed at deterring young people from joining gangs, he has received several nominations for the highly coveted Nobel Peace Prize, was awarded the President’s Call to Service Award for his community service earlier this year and was featured in a cable television movie, "Redemption: The Stan Tookie’ Williams story.

Whether you are a death penalty advocate or foe, some facts speak for themselves. Williams’ books and anti gang messages are deterring many young people from entering the gang lifestyle. Others have denounced gangs and violence and are attempting to turn their lives around. There are still many who feel that belonging to a gang is the "in" thing and refuse to look for a positive life path.

Tookie Williams alive would continue to stem the flow of violence that will cause more deaths than those he personally caused.

There needs to be a reflection of redemption\rehabilitation in a reduction of sentences or it is just empty words. That message is conveyed by the execution of Tookie.

It's about revenge not punishment, and not justice.


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This message is a reply to:
 Message 3 by Silent H, posted 12-13-2005 4:15 AM Silent H has responded

Replies to this message:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19871
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 38 of 166 (269001)
12-13-2005 8:48 PM
Reply to: Message 37 by bobbins
12-13-2005 8:21 PM


Re: My changed mind
you wouldn't be suggesting it is just treating a symptom and not a cause?

ps - welcome to Team EvC

This message has been edited by RAZD, 12*13*2005 08:48 PM


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This message is a reply to:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19871
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 88 of 166 (269324)
12-14-2005 5:15 PM
Reply to: Message 46 by Lammy
12-13-2005 10:39 PM


IF rehabilitation is the question, plus a 3rd Option
An interesting graph, Lam, one that could easily be two results of a single trend or results of totally unrelated trends. To show a relationship you need to show reasonably exclusive causality, and this is not done by just posting numbers. But lets assume it is real for the moment.

This still does not argue against there being a mechanism to reduce the sentence from death to life if certain circumstances are met or where there is compelling evidence that the original decision was not biased or beyond reasonable doubt. At least with a life sentence it is possible for the prisoner to make a positive contribution. Perhaps it could be like a parole system: contribute, earn 5 years, review in 5 years. Letting a life sentenced prisoner choose death is also an option, so they would have three options: contribute and delay death, choose to die, or wait to let the system takes its course.

If we, as a society, are really committed to the concept of rehabilitation of criminals, then this actually occurring in prison should trigger some positive response in the justice system, regardless of the original sentence and crime.

It should be some relatively easy criteria to measure: {repentence\regret} could be one part, making a positive effect outside prison could be another, making a positive effect on other prisoners could also be included. Perhaps a 2 out of 3 goal for getting the 5 year delay would be sufficient.

I know that "The Birdman of Alcatraz" (Burt Lancaster movie, 1962) portrays Robert Stroud as a more gentle and humane individual than his early record shows, the real story still shows that it is possible for a person confined to a cell, under high security restrictions no less, to do valuable work that benefits society.

One difference to note between Tookie and Stroud is that Strouds contribution came after his sentence was commuted from death to life imprisonment.
http://www.alcatrazhistory.com/stroud.htm

The issue about revenge for the crimes committed is, to me, a red herring, as neither death nor life imprisonment will change the past, both are punishments for the crime, but only one has the potential to change the future in a positive way.

Given that numerous prisoners have been put to death wrongfully (after being convicted wrongfully) it seems to me that it should almost be mandatory condition that the case be fully re-opened and the evidence - new and old - reviewed to ensure that (1) the right person was convicted and there are no problems with the evidence used, and (2) that the crime warrents the ultimate punishment. All possible elements of racial bias, economic bias need to be removed and the evidence judged fairly and equitably, perhaps by a panel of judges rather than a jury, so that they are familiar with the laws, and the failings of the current system. Again, if there were some doubt but not evidence of innocence then they could postpone it for 5 years to review again (a number of wrongfully killed prisoners were found innocent afterwards). This would be the final {review\appeal}, applied in all cases automatically (and probably reducing the paperwork now being processed in such cases :D).

It seems to me that this would be a reasonable alternative to one or the other in all cases.

Enjoy.


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This message is a reply to:
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RAZD
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Posts: 19871
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 89 of 166 (269325)
12-14-2005 5:24 PM
Reply to: Message 59 by Silent H
12-14-2005 10:08 AM


expert juries
I think they'd be another interesting thread topic. I cannot give a simple up/down on that idea. What I will say is this: our current justice system is flawed and we should be seriously investigating alternatives, including such things as expert juries.

Yes another topic. One I have some misgivings about (do they become political appointments? shudder How could they be selected so that doesn't happen?)

Also consider the complete supression of the identity of the defendant - no race, gender, age, sex, etc information - judge only on the evidence and not on who it charged.


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This message is a reply to:
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RAZD
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Posts: 19871
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
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Message 95 of 166 (269511)
12-14-2005 10:43 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Silent H
12-13-2005 8:26 AM


Re: doesn't make sense. He's dead.
Getting back to this:

Yes, or you can be that and be for capital punishment. If one believes that the loss of life is the worse thing which can be done/have happen to onesself, then execution is the strongest punishment.

If the existence of life is so precious that a brain dead woman needs to be kept on life support until the bones wither away,

If the existence of life is so precious that zygotes doomed to natural death (2/3rds of the time) must be kept alive,

Then the possibility on ONE life wrongfully convicted and wrongfully punished is also the loss of an equally valuable potentially innocent life. If not more so because it is a fully functioning life.

The fact that this occurs frequently should be more than enough reason for those that feel the others are precious. They should be arguing for life imprisonment, no questions asked.

Or be hypocrites on the issue of innocent life. That's my take.


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This message is a reply to:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19871
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
Member Rating: 5.5


Message 96 of 166 (269516)
12-14-2005 10:54 PM
Reply to: Message 94 by macaroniandcheese
12-14-2005 9:04 PM


The third alternative -- the 5 year review plan
Scott Peterson has about a 50-50 chance of spending at least half of the remainder of his life of Death Row before his execution date is even set.

yeah see. there's this little problem in america called due process.

This is where the beauty of the alternative mandatory 5 year review actually reduces the process: 5 years on death row then a mandatory full review by a panel of judges, if there is absolutely no new evidence and clear evidence of guilt, that's it, due process is over.

If there is any doubt on the handling of evidence or of bias in the trial, then you get another 5 years. Also if there is sufficient evidence of {redemption\remorse\rehabilitation} you can get a 5 year extension.

Thus you can err on the side of caution, and you can execute confirmed remorseless killers more expediantly than currently, while still providing due process.


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This message is a reply to:
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RAZD
Member
Posts: 19871
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004
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Message 164 of 166 (275918)
01-04-2006 10:38 PM
Reply to: Message 162 by Silent H
01-04-2006 7:02 PM


Re: Sympathy for the Creationist?
Certification of science teachers would involve making sure they knew and could relate proper methodology. That would be decided somewhat by consensus of those within the field, right?

Are you advocating this in addition to certification for teaching? Teachers are first taught to teach - that is their major - and what they teach is secondary to that degree.

My experience with present schools (my son's) relative to my personal experience in school show a disturbing trend to generalized teachers that are then assigned to various classes depending more on seniority than on expertise, ability or even current knowledge.

In schools large enough to have several teachers covering the same courses there would be a mechanism available to pick the better teacher, if that were (a) information available and (b) the desired goal of the {student\parents} (as opposed to picking the one that gives the "better" grades regardless of ability)

Has anyone noticed that this is waaaaaaaay off topic?


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RebelAAmerican.Zen[Deist
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to share.


This message is a reply to:
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