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December 12, 2005

Schwarzenegger denies Tookie Williams clemency

As detailed in this AP report, "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied clemency to Stanley Tookie Williams, the former gang leader whose case stirred debate over capital punishment and the possibility of redemption on death row."  This means, with other last-ditch appeals have been rejected, that Williams will likely be executed by the state of California in about 11 hours.

Thanks to this post from the ever-able Howard Bashman, I see that you can access Schwarzenegger's five-page "Statement of Decision" at this link.  This (very lawyerly) document makes for very interesting reading, and here are just a few passages that catch my eye from a quick read:

The basis of Williams' clemency request is not innocence. Rather, the basis of the request is the "personal redemption Stanley Williams has experienced and the positive impact of the message he sends." But Williams' claim of innocence remains a key factor to evaluating his claim of personal redemption. It is impossible to separate Williams' claim of innocence from his claim of redemption....

Is Williams' redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise?  Stanley Williams insists he is innocent, and that he will not and should not apologize or otherwise atone for the murders of the four victims in this case.  Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption. In this case, the one thing that would be the clearest indication of complete remorse and full redemption is the one thing Williams will not do.

Clemency decisions are always difficult, and this one is no exception. After reviewing and weighing the showing Williams has made in support of his clemency request, there is nothing that compels me to nullify the jury's decision of guilt and sentence and the many court decisions during the last 24 years upholding the jury's decision with a grant of clemency.

December 12, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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Tracked on Dec 12, 2005 5:10:51 PM


Moral and strategic question:

The Governator appears to require that T. Williams admit his guilt before meriting clemency. As a policy, this seems to require that innocent people must lie before they can receive clemency. Does this make sense?

Morally, what should a supposedly innocent Williams do?

Also, strategically, what should an innocent or guilty Williams do?

Your thoughts are appreciated.


Posted by: Mark | Dec 12, 2005 4:17:21 PM

As a matter of strategy, it seems clear to me that Williams' should admit his guilt even if he is innocent. As a matter of morality, that's real tough.

In cases of this sort, I always wonder if there would be a reasonable way to "split the difference" -- e.g., express extreme remorse for gang involvement in the Crips and for the harms gangs produce; accept responsibility that his lifestyle (if not his direct acts) were in some way responsible for the deaths for which he was convicted.

I doubt that such a half-admission would satisfy anyone, but it seems like one possible way to try to thread these strategic and moral needles.

Posted by: Doug B. | Dec 12, 2005 5:03:59 PM

Both morally and strategically, Tookie Williams's options were always difficult.

Williams spent decades in the courts trying to get his conviction and/or sentence reversed. He pretty much *had* to maintain his innocence while those proceedings were pending. I mean, he couldn't exactly say, "I killed all those people, but please reverse my conviction, because the witnesses against me were liars."

Well, having maintained his innocence for all of those years -- and having put the state to the trouble of defending itself in one post-conviction appeal after another -- a last-minute admission of guilt probably wouldn't have changed Gov. Schwarzenegger's decision. It would have been seen as a "convenient" admission to avoid execution, after all other means of avoiding it had failed.

Had he admitted his guilt from the beginning, he most likely would have been executed years ago, since it was only due his repeated protestations of innocence that the case dragged on this long.

Posted by: Marc Shepherd | Dec 13, 2005 8:29:11 AM

Well the Gov took the easy way out. Here is a man that has made his tragic life into something positive yet this Arnold refused to spare the life of a man who has tried to turn his life around. Yet Jeffery Dahmer, the Green River Killer and other serial killers totally escape the death penalty. All the Green River Killer had to do was show the authorities where he buried some of his victims. This man killed over 40 people yet his life was spared. Speaking of guilt, here in Ohio we had a black man that was refused parole time after time because he refused admit to commiting the crime. Finally, after serving 15 years in jail, DNA and a rapist's conscience freed this man. The state paid him a paltry sum and the media quickly vanished as he tried to pick up the pieces of his life. Too bad there was no DNA in William's case or maybe he would be alive now. Remember all of you who tout these hardline judges just remember it could be you or your child standing before some zealot judge. Acused of a crime you did not commit. Look at all of the people being released from false imprisonment due to DNA. The job of a prosecutor is to find the truth, not convictions, nor political acceptance. It seems political positions are now worth more than a human life.

Posted by: Charles | Jan 14, 2006 5:34:37 PM

there were fingerprints on TOOKIES gun, asshole. he got what he asked for.

Posted by: phuck | Nov 24, 2007 5:58:29 AM

The first comment on the bottom is absolutely hillarious and manipulative. If Stanley Tookie Williams claims that he is innocent, and there are fingerprints on HIS GUN how is that saying anything? It was not Stanley Tookie Williams's gun that murdered those people! Obviously if Stanley Tookie Williams owned a gun his fingerprints would be on them. Stanley Tookie Williams is innocent, FACE IT MANIPULATOR the man deserves to be long-lived and all this site is doing is proving the FACT that Arnold Schwarzenegger is hiding behind the media

Posted by: | Oct 1, 2008 7:12:30 PM

My bad the comment above my previous comment is the one i'm talking about

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