Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Politics Behind the Legal Lynching of Stanley Tookie Williams

PANW Editor's Note: The execution of Stanley Tookie Williams by the State of California on December 13, 2005 was a well planned and politically calculated action by the ruling elites in the United States. Despite the fact that the initial trial that convicted Williams was fraught with errors and constitutional violations, the court system refused to grant him a new trial.

The denial of clemency by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was based on his right wing politics and his close links with the Bush administration. Bush, who was the former governor of Texas, a state which has carried out more executions over the last three decades than any other within the country, is a staunch supporter of capital punishment. Bush put more people to death than any other governor in the United States.

Executing Williams provided the right wing with an opportunity to shore up its political base, which has been shaken by the failing fortunes of the Bush administration in relationship to the disastrous defeats in Iraq as well as the growing economic crisis throughout America. The response of Schwarzenegger to the request for clemency by Williams' legal team illustrates clearly his disdain for the liberation movements of African and oppressed peoples both in the United States and internationally. Towards the end of the five page document he cites Williams' dedication of his first book to revolutionary leaders within the African and indigenous world as the basis for his denial.

This document can be read in full by clicking on the URL below:
5-page PDF of the Governator's decision:

What was most striking about the denial was the section quoted below on pages 4 (bottom) to 5 (top):

"The dedication of Williams’ book “Life in Prison” casts significant doubt on his personal redemption. This book was published in 1998, several years after Williams’ claimed redemptive experience. Specifically, the book is dedicated to “Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, Ramona Africa, John Africa, Leonard Peltier, Dhoruba Al-Mujahid, George Jackson, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the countless other men, women, and youths who have to endure the hellish oppression of living behind bars.” The mix of individuals on this list is curious. Most have violent pasts and some have been convicted of committing heinous murders, including the killing of law enforcement.

"But the inclusion of George Jackson on this list defies reason and is a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed and that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems."

Consequently, this was a deliberate act of murder commited before the eyes of the world and specifically targeted at the right wing to win their lagging support and the oppressed peoples of the United States and the world as a gesture of contempt, hatred and provocation.

However, the actions of Schwarzenegger and his political class has further exposed the true character of the ruling class in America. People have condemned this lynching throughout the United States and the world. It has galvanized a broad coalition in opposition to the racist death penalty and has intensified the debate over capital punishment and the genuine character of the American national security state.

Below is an article reprinted from the New York Times that addresses some aspects of the growing debate and political struggle over the antiquated usage of the death penalty, which has been outlawed by the European Union, the Republic of South Africa, Senegal and an ever increasing number of nations throughout the world.

Abayomi Azikiwe

December 14, 2005

Execution Ignites New Fire in Death Penalty Debate

New York Times

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 13 - As plans were under way to hold a large public funeral for Stanley Tookie Williams, the former gangster executed by lethal injection early Tuesday morning, and scatter his ashes in South Africa, his death was stirring fresh passion on both sides of the debate over capital punishment in California. There was also debate within the debate over what impact the execution would have, either on a spate of scheduled executions here or the broader question of where California was headed on the death penalty.

Critics of the death penalty, who, among others across the nation and around the world, helped lead one of the most highly publicized campaigns in decades to save a death row inmate's life, said Mr. Williams's execution had already galvanized public opposition to capital punishment. They said the execution would become a powerful tool in their fight to overturn the death penalty, or at least suspend executions in the state. It is possible that at least five death row inmates in California could be executed in the next year.

Of the five, only one, Clarence Ray Allen, 75, the oldest condemned prisoner in the state, has a scheduled execution date, Jan. 17.

"It was a profoundly sad day this morning when they killed Stanley Williams, a needless act of violence by the state that accomplishes nothing," said Lance G. Lindsey, executive director of Death Penalty Focus, one of the groups that rallied to Mr. Williams's cause. Mr. Lindsey said his group was hopeful that the publicity surrounding the Williams case would aid in the effort to have capital cases more closely scrutinized in California.

Most Californians support the death penalty, although those numbers have begun to decline in recent years, according to several polls. Mr. Williams, 51, a co-founder of the Crips gang of Los Angeles who was convicted of murdering four people in 1979, had become, to his supporters, an example of jailhouse redemption and a powerful critic of gang life, both from his cell and through his writings.

Mr. Williams, who was executed at 12:35 a.m. Tuesday at San Quentin State Prison, maintained his innocence and pursued a series of legal appeals, including a petition to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for clemency and another for a stay of his execution, until the final moments of his life. Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, cited Mr. Williams's refusal to admit to the murders as a reason he denied the request to commute his sentence to life in prison. To those who supported his execution, Mr. Williams was a remorseless, brutal killer responsible for starting a notorious gang now blamed for the death of perhaps thousands of people.

And advocates for the death penalty said they did not believe his case would hold special sway here with either the public or lawmakers considering a temporary moratorium on executions. "I can't see in what sense it would lend momentum," said Michael Rushford, president of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation in Sacramento.

He added that Mr. Williams's supporters, including the rap star Snoop Dogg, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, "picked the wrong guy" to show what was wrong with the death penalty. "It would be like picking Hitler for clemency," he said. "I don't know of a criminal enterprise that has caused more harm than the Crips. Timothy McVeigh didn't kill as many people as Tookie's gang did last year in Los Angeles itself."

But Barbara Becnel, a close friend and an editor of Mr. Williams's books who was arranging his funeral, said she would continue to try to prove his innocence. "For the people who opposed Stan," Ms. Becnel said, "they wanted to blame him directly for everything the Crips did. The Crips was a local gang, an L.A. gang, albeit a large one, when he was arrested in 1979. They arrest him and set him up and he never sees the light of day again and the gang becomes statewide, nationwide, worldwide."

Ms. Becnel added, "Is a dead man going to be responsible for everything that the Crips do from here on out?" She watched the execution, which took 36 minutes and 15 seconds, said reporters who witnessed it, longer than expected, as a nurse struggled for about 12 minutes to insert a needle into Mr. Williams's left arm. Ms. Becnel described the procedure as "an absolutely barbaric display of truly how cruel the punishment of the death penalty is."

"It took the staff at San Quentin 35 minutes to kill Stan," she said. "During the course of their bumbling, we watched him grimace in pain, we watched him finally reach a point of frustration, where you saw him lift his head up, and you could see he was saying, Can't you just do this?"

Ms. Becnel said she was arranging to have Mr. Williams's body flown to Los Angeles, where she said a funeral with an open coffin was being planned for Monday or Tuesday. She said Mr. Williams, who was visited by Winnie Madikizela-Mandela at the prison in 1999, requested that he be buried under a yohimbe tree in South Africa or that his ashes be scattered over the "Blue Nile River, to feed the fishes and other organisms." She said she was making plans to scatter the ashes somewhere in South Africa, with a memorial there planned for sometime in January.

An aide to Ms. Mandela, the former wife of Nelson Mandela, told a South African newspaper, Beeld, on Tuesday that "she will keep her promise to ensure that Williams is buried in South Africa." Joe R. Hicks, a former board member of Death Penalty Focus, a San Francisco group that opposes the death penalty, who now supports capital punishment, said Mr. Williams deserved to die.

But Mr. Hicks, now the vice president of a conservative Los Angeles group, Community Advocates, said he believed that Mr. Williams's execution would touch off "an upsurge of anti- death-penalty work that may have some effect on upcoming campaigns to get rid of the death penalty in California." "There will be an increased frenzy around this," he said. "And it will all spin off the Tookie case."

Carolyn Marshall contributed reporting from San Francisco for this article.

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