The End Of Tookie Williams

Mitch Berg finds an interesting example of a leftist writer defending the execution of Tookie Williams, the founder of the Crips street gang who was executed early this morning:

For every cold-blooded, unrepentant killer like Stanley Williams on death row, there are individuals in prison who were framed by racist police, denied a competent defense and who might even be exonerated by DNA evidence. Robert Clark, falsely imprisoned for 20-some years in Georgia for a rape he did not commit, is one such man. He and others like him deserve our attention, our compassion and our assistance.

Not Williams, whose real legacy includes not only the deaths of four innocent people but also the creation of a virulent movement that is partially responsible for the genocide of two generations of young black and Latino Americans. He may never rest in peace. But he should be given the opportunity to do so.

I’m conflicted over the death penalty – however, Ed Morrissey has an interesting letter from an LA Country prosecutor as to why the death penalty is necessary to prevent crime – furthermore a reader finds a piece in The Atlantic Monthly that indicates that each death penalty executions prevents 18 murders:

The Emory researchers’ “conservative estimate” was that on average, every execution deters eighteen murders. Sunstein and his co-author argue that this calculus makes the death penalty not just morally licit but morally required. A government that fails to make use of it, they write, is effectively condemning large numbers of its citizens to death—a sin of omission like failing to protect the environment or to provide adequate health care. “If each execution is saving many lives,” they conclude, “the harms of capital punishment would have to be very great to justify its abolition, far greater than most critics have heretofore alleged.”

In any event, Stanley “Tookie” Williams was unquestionably a man responsible for great evil. He not only murdered four people in cold blood, but founded a ruthless and vicious gang that is responsible for hundreds of other murders. Whatever redemption he found in prison cannot erase the magnitude of his crimes. He was sentenced to death under the laws of California after years of exhaustive appeals. There is little question of his guilt in this case.

There are some people who have committed such crimes that they’ve utterly abrogated their place in the social contract. Someone who murders without remorse can never be released from prison, and if there’s even a small chance that they may again prey on the rest of the society, then the state must take that into account. I take no pleasure in the death of “Tookie” Williams – no moral person should – but at the same time those who have held him up as some kind of martyr are ignoring the great evil he did.

2 thoughts on “The End Of Tookie Williams

  1. “every execution deters eighteen murders.”

    That makes zero sense. Not only does the idea fly in the face of logic, the statistics indicate the direct opposite as well. Nations and states with the lowest crime rates have no death penalty, while states with the highest execution rates typically rank among the most violent. How violent of a place do “the Emory brothers” think Texas and Virginia would be if the murder rate would soar 1,800% without executions. Sounds like one of those “second hand-smoke-ish” studies where the methodology was wildly manipulated to produce the study-takers pre-ordained conclusion.

  2. The paper is here – one of the authors is Cass Sunstein, who is a noted liberal legal scholar. Furthermore, a state with a low murder rate wouldn’t need a death penalty. Finally, not all murders are death penalty cases, so the murder rate wouldn’t jump 1800%. It’s eighteen deterred murders for every execution, and there are only a handful of executions every year.

    I haven’t read enough of the paper to say whether the methodology is correct or not, but it is quite possible, and Sustein’s hardly some right-wing ideologue.

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