Unless Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger grants him clemency, Stanley "Tookie" Williams will be executed on December 13, 2005 for the four brutal murders for which he was convicted in 1979. I say, let him fry. Or, more accurately, let him drift into a peaceful sleep as lethal drugs course through his veins or poisonous gas invades his respiratory system.
In 1971, Stanley "Tookie" Williams co-founded a street gang in Los Angeles that later came to be know as the Crips. He was 17 years old. Though Williams and Raymond Washington claim to have started the gang as a stand against the random violence in their neighborhood, within a year of inception, the Crips were involved in 29 homicides in Los Angeles. The Crips became one of the most prevalent and violent street gangs in Los Angeles before spreading throughout the U.S. and into Canada and Mexico.
Arguments for his clemency center around Williams' deeds during his time on death row. He has worked to try to decrease the influence of gangs, particularly with school-age children. He has even written a series of children's books subtitled, "Tookie Speaks Out Against Gang Violence." I don't want to downplay the positive impact on society that Williams has made. I don't doubt that he has been transformed and rehabilitated, but unless his service to the greater good has included a way to revive the dead, I don't believe that there is anything that Williams could accomplish that would atone for his crimes.
Albert Owens, a former soldier in the U.S. Army, was an outgoing, 26-year old father of two. He was working the night shift at 7-Eleven when Williams and three accomplices entered the store. Williams took Owens into the backroom, made him kneel or lie down and shot him twice in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun. According to court documents, Williams later bragged that he "blew some white guy away, shot him in the back, for $63."
Eleven days later, Williams and his accomplices robbed a motel office and, in the process or possibly after the fact, gunned down the Yang family, who owned the motel. The father, Yu-Chen Li, was shot in the face with a 12-gauge shotgun and died immediately. Yen-I and Tsai-Shai, mother and daughter, each received two shotgun blasts to the chest as they cowered together on the floor in front of their sofa. Mother and daughter were barely alive when emergency personnel reached them. They both died a short time later. Before Williams and his crew left, they remembered to pick up their shotgun shells so as not to leave behind any evidence. They missed one.
To this day, Williams maintains his innocence in all four murders. If his conviction were based solely on his original trial in 1979, I would consider the possibility that he is innocent, but his guilt has been proven repeatedly through the appeals process.
I agree with the proponents for clemency that Williams does good work and that once he is executed there will be a void that needs filling. However, it isn't only society that is benefiting from Williams' work, he is benefiting from his own good deeds, as well. He gets to experience the joy and satisfaction that come from helping others. And he shouldn't. Every day of that man's life in prison should be as miserable as the last minutes of the lives of his victims. He should suffer as they suffered from the instant he was convicted to the very second he breathes his last breath, but justice doesn't work that way.
I believe firmly that the punishment should fit the crime and life in prison is not a sufficient sentence for even a single brutal murder, let alone four. The only fitting penalty for crimes of the nature of those committed by Williams is execution. The long delay between his conviction and his execution only serves to punish him further - to deservedly punish him further.
Stanley "Tookie" Williams saw the person he could have become if he had chosen a different path in life, one that didn't lead to the deaths of four innocent victims. He didn't make that choice then and he shouldn't get to live that life now. I am glad that he was able to see what could have been, not only because he has helped to educate the latest generation about the evils of gangs, but also because it makes his own loss that much greater. Williams will die knowing that he could have done so much more on this earth if only he had been given more time. To grant him clemency now and allow him to continue to lead the life of a famed educator, one who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, is to reward him for his crimes. Williams would not have been able to lead a life this grand if he had not committed those crimes. If he had continued on the same path, he surely would have been dead long before now. The average lifespan of gang members today is 20.5 years. At the age of 51, Williams has already outlived most of his criminal colleagues.
For the harm that he inflicted on the four people he murdered, their families and their friends; for the harm that he inflicted on the people of Los Angeles, the state of California, the United States, and all of North America; Stanley "Tookie" Williams deserves to die.