Innocent persons should not be put in prison, must less executed. There is room for a legitimate debate about whether guilty murderers should be executed for their crimes. State execution of a murderer is not itself murder as anti-death penalty advocates erroneously claim, any more than homicide in self-defense is murder. Murder is the unlawful taking of a human life, and state executions of murderers are lawful, whether or not one agrees with them.
Tookie Williams came on Democracy Now and made a compelling case. But he was lying and host Amy Goodman was not intellectually or philosophically prepared to examine the truthfulness (or lack of it) of Mr. Williams’ claims.
Tookie Williams did receive a fair trial, and the evidence presented to an impartial jury convicted him, including testimony by his own friends and associates. Tookie Williams is lying to gullible people and they believe him. Williams claims he was convicted by an all-white jury — this is a lie. The jury contained two non-white women. But playing the race card, as Tookie Williams is doing now, is more than a lie — it is a distraction from relevancy. Tookie does not claim he was convicted by a biased jury, he claims (erroneously) that he was convicted by an all-white jury. But could Tookie Williams have received a fair trial by an all-white jury if he had been presented with one? I can say unequivocally those if twelve white jurors like me were selected, Tookie Williams would have received a fair trial, and there is no evidence that he did not, in fact, receive a fair trial. If twelve of his current white supporters were selected for his jury, he probably would not receive a fair trial — he would receive a biased trial that would favor the murderer and bring injustice to the families of his victims. This is apparently what Tookie and his fans would prefer. There is no evidence and no reason to believe that the racial mix of the jury that convicted Tookie Williams contributed to any injustice. Moreover, we have learned from O.J. Simpson’s trial and its aftermath that putting of people on a jury based on race could result in injustice, though the verdict may be favorable to the defendant.
So, the question begs itself: What is the purpose of a murder trial: to favor the defendant, to favor the prosecutor, or to favor neither and produce justice? Clearly Tookie Williams and his fans are upset that they could not obtain a favorable verdict, that they did not receive a fair verdict. If Tookie Williams lies about his jury, he can lie about anything, and an honest investigation will reveal he does lie and he is guilty.
What about Tookie’s "redemption"? Does living a better, even good life after committing a murder undo the murder? There is no doubt that Tookie Williams lived a very degraded and violent life in his youth, and that he suffered for it in many ways. Tookie has suffered in prison because of choices and actions taken that put him in prison. Perhaps his change of attitude is genuine and he is genuinely helping people. Such a change does not bring back the lives of his earlier victims. Murder is the ultimate human crime. Failure to punish murder denigrates the lives of the victims.
Anti-death penalty advocates harm their own cause by falsely claiming innocence for Tookie. If they said that he was guilty but a changed man, and presented evidence of remorse and good works, then they could make a legitimate case for clemency. But Tookie Williams is not an innocent man, and his followers are not presenting truthful, honest rationales for clemency. Liars do not earn compassion, and Tookie Williams insults the honest public and does not deserve clemency. Even his best works do not earn enough credit to overcome his old and his ongoing societal debits.