In yesterday’s post comparing Stanley “Tookie” Williams to President Bush, I struggled with how to make my point without seeming to elevate Tookie’s plight too much. I have no idea whether he committed the crimes of which he was accused, and it really doesn’t matter to me since I don’t believe the State should be executing anyone! My point was simply that both men chose to promote violence and death, neither man has accepted full responsibility for their actions, and only one of them has taken any steps in the right direction. Whether Tookie took enough steps to avoid execution is an argument for those who believe revenge is debatable. That’s not me!
What I can debate, however, is the logic of Governor Schwarzenegger’s denial of clemency (PDF). Now that I’ve had a chance to read the document, I can only say that the Terminator’s claim to have been struggling with issues of conscience before making the decision seems as hollow as his characterization of Tookie’s claim of redemption!
The denial reads as if the Terminator had already made his decision, and then sent his Legal Affairs Secretary, Andrea Hoch, out to dig up some additional justification to kill the guy! And what justification did she find?
While awaiting trial, he wrote about an escape plan that was never executed. Um, first of all, this non-incident occurred over 20 years ago – well before Tookie even claimed to have begun turning his life around. So if he did want to escape from prison, a desire that could possess innocent as well as guilty prisoners, writing down his escape plan is, at most, an extension of the crimes themselves; and, at least, a potential screenplay for the sequel to The Shawshank Redemption!
The timing of the second murders “shows a callous disregard for human life.” This section includes the rather bizarre implication that murders less than two weeks apart are somehow worse than murders that are, say, three weeks apart! Perhaps Governor Schwarzenegger could give us a timeframe for more appropriate spacing of murders. Judging from his movies, I would expect it to be about 20 minutes! And again, both crimes took place well before Tookie claimed redemption anyway.
His books aren’t ending gang violence. Now this argument is downright stupid! The exact quote in the denial is that “ the continued pervasiveness of gang violence leads one to question the efficacy of Williams’ message.” So f**king what! This is like saying that because Arnold hasn’t ended partisan bickering in Sacramento, he isn’t trying to fulfill his campaign promises. Wait a minute, until he recently experienced redemption and hired a Democrat as his Chief of Staff, he wasn’t trying to fulfill his campaign promise of centrism! Only when he was “convicted” by voters rejecting all of his ballot initiatives did he decide that he would suddenly appeal to anyone but conservatives!
He included militant activist, George Jackson, in the dedication of one of his books. Here’s another ridiculous reach for a justification to kill the guy. So he included George Jackson in a long list that also included “countless other men, women and youths who have to endure the hellish oppression of living behind bars?” Perhaps it was because Jackson also wrote books from prison. Perhaps it was because Jackson once gave him a cigarette in the prison yard. Who knows why he was included on the list? But calling it “a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed” is no less absurd than saying the fact that he included Nelson Mandela on the list is an indicator that he is fit to lead a country!
He hasn’t apologized for the tragedy of gang violence. Schwarzenegger just couldn’t get through the clemency denial without at least one easily refutable lie. This one is right from Tookie’s own website. Sure, the apology wasn’t in the exact words that Arnold might have liked, but Tookie did apologize in his way for contributing to the violence of gangs, and he was doing something to try to stop it.
Governor Schwarzenegger’s clemency denial is notably harsh and without any sense that he approached his decision with respect, understanding and patience. Yet, inexplicably, he includes in a footnote the following editorial comment that has absolutely nothing to do with the case at hand:
Breaking the cycle of hopelessness and gang violence is the responsibility of us all, not just the most affected African-Americans or inner city communities. It is important to work together with respect, understanding and patience if we are one day to succeed.Succeed at what, Arnold? Executing all of the gang members to rid them of their cycle of hopelessness? He ultimately concludes that Williams’ redemption “was just a hollow promise,” as he denied clemency. After nearly four years of hollow promises since becoming Governor, I guess he knows them when he sees them!