Roger L. Simon

Another Death Penalty Post - Tookie continued

As I wrote a couple of days ago (and on other occasions as well), I oppose the death penalty except in the rare cases of political mass murderers like Saddam, Stalin, Zarqawi, etc. Those people have too many adherents eager to spring them to allow them to live. They could too easily resume their homicidal activities. I regard this (thankfully) small category as a practical “public safety” exception to my generalized opposition to the death penalty on what ultimately come down to personal moral grounds.

Even so, I find particularly repellent the cause celebre around sparing the life of Crips co-founder Tookie Williams. Why him? We are told after many years in jail, he has repented. But since he has never, to my knowledge, publicly acknowledged he actually murdered four people, how is this possible? What kind of repentance is that? But even if we accept this dubious pronouncement, making a “celebrity exception” on an issue of the magnitude of the death penalty strikes me as another example of narcissism run amuck in our culture. Tookie is “cool.” Hollywood stars like him. Therefore he should get off, while other faceless folks rot on death row before finally being shuffled off for lethal injection. Frankly, I have more sympathy for the faceless ones than I do for Tookie. But maybe that’s just me. In any case, adding glamour to the death penalty discussion is tasteless in the extreme and disrespectful beyond words to the families of the victims whose corpses lay face down on the floor of that convenience store, blown to Kingdom Come by Tookie’s sawed-off shotgun.

UPDATE: Newsweek has just published a “Web Exclusive” interview with Tookie conducted by Karen Breslau. Williams still maintains his innocence in the murders. This interchange (or non-interchange) is revealing regarding the repentance issue:

Newsweek: The prosecutors told the governor that your refusal to “debrief” or, as your supporter have said, “to become a snitch” about the Crips sends the wrong message to young people. Why don’t you tell them to cooperate with police? To tell them if they are witnesses to a crime? To help them solve crimes?

Williams: Let me say this to you and to the world. I have transformed my life. I am no longer a violent man. I will not, I will never do anything to cause harm to any human being on the face of this planet. If I feel that opening my mouth will harm another a human being, it does not matter who they are, what their color or creed is. I can’t do it. I can’t do it. That is something I have vowed to God. My vow to God is more important than what I say to any human being on the face of this earth.