Thursday, December 15, 2005

Death by decree

I didn't shed any tears for Tookie, and in spite of warnings of riots in the streets, I doubted that many residents of the neighborhoods terrorized by LA gangs would kick up much of a fuss over the death of a Crip, even a "redeemed" one.

But I still think capital punishment is wrong. I don't believe in state-sanctioned killing for a whole host of reasons, the most important of which is: What if you're wrong?

Steve Lopez, writing for the LA Times:

His victims, all four of them, were shotgunned as if it were a cheap thrill for Williams. And as one of the first Crips, he started something that destroyed everything in its path, bringing genocide to neighborhoods on top of all the other problems.

Williams was a tough guy in prison too, spending years in solitary confinement for his mayhem behind bars before he took a different tack. His anti-gang books and speeches from death row were great gestures, but the Nobel Peace Prize nominations were preposterous, and the marketing of Williams as a hero was offensive.

If he were truly redeemed, he would have taken responsibility for the murders, he would have rejected the duplicitous code of honor among those who refuse to tell what they know, and his dying words would have been a call for the dismantling of the gang he started.

Those who tried to cast Williams as a martyr, including the usual Hollywood rabble, once again picked the wrong man to carry the banner against the death penalty. They made a cause of Tookie Williams as others have done with Mumia Abu Jamal, the Philadelphia cop killer and death row inmate whose claim of innocence is pure fiction, despite the celebrity bestowed on him.

And yet, watching Williams put to death Tuesday morning by agents of the government — his execution sanctioned in a country where godliness and virtue are synonymous, even as torture and execution are defended — made me all the more certain that capital punishment is barbaric.


Jess said...

Dude, watch the Mumia Abu Jamal documentary. There's so much evidence that that guy is innocent that it's amazing he's still in prison.

Unlike Tookie, he was a respected journalist before he became a "cop killer". The Philly police force hated him and had every reason to frame him. There's a great book by him called "All Things Censored" (which is a rip on NPR for bowing to Senetor Bob Dole and the National Fraternal Order of Police and never airing Mumia's NPR commentary). Dude is a fascinating and very well-spoken guy.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Yeah, I'm not endorsing Lopez's opinion about Mumia. I just found it interesting that someone of his beliefs would also be against the death penalty.

Jess said...

"Dude is a fascinating and very well-spoken guy" Unlike me. Heee! (I just re-read my post and laughed at my extensive use of the word "dude")

Anyway, I know you weren't endorsing Lopez. But, I admit I got pissed when he mentioned Mumia like that.

I first heard of Mumia from Jeff. When we were first dating he made a reference to him and then said something like "But, I don't think anyone could really joke about Mumia Abu Jamal. Right?"

I swear to god I thought he was kidding and I laughed. "What?" he asked. Then I realized he was serious and that I needed to pretend to know what he was talking about so I looked smart. Then I decided "eh, fuck it."

"You're... kidding... right? I mean... isn't that the guy from The Cosby Show?"

"Um, you're thinking of Malcolm Jamal Warner." Jeff replied, and then gave me the low-down. HAH! (I still like to refer to him as "Mumy Abu Jibbity Jibb Warner" just to get Jeff's goat. And to prove that one can INDEED joke about Mumia Abu Jamal.)

vikkitikkitavi said...

I remember Mumia was one of the guys Clinton was supposedly considering for a pardon. Another who was turned down was Leonard Peltier, of course. Wrongly convicted of killing 2 FBI agents.

There are some obvious similarities with Mumia there.