[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----MD., USA, OHIO, CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Dec 6 10:17:17 CST 2005
Protestors Show Support Until Baker's Last Breath
The snowfall and cold temperatures didn't stop nearly 60 protesters from
showing their displeasure with Maryland's decision to carry out what some
believe is a barbaric sentence.
Wesley Eugene Baker was just hours away from death Monday, but outside of
the prison, anti-death penalty protesters let their voices be heard.
"I don't think the state should murder people in our name. It's barbaric,"
said Erin Evans, 25, of Baltimore, holding a "Not in My Name" sign. "I
don't want to live in a country that murders innocent people."
The protesters gathered in front of the Central Booking and Intake Center,
near the prison facility where the execution took place. They occasionally
went into a nearby doughnut shop to get warm.
Evans said the cold wasn't going to stop her.
"It's nothing when lives are at stake," she said. "I'm out here for the 7
people in Maryland who are on death row and all the people on death row
across the country."
Some of the Central Booking inmates shouted to the demonstrators through a
small, broken window, "We love all of you." Protesters and inmates began
chanting, "Don't kill him!"
Many were holding a sign, with slogans such as "Abolish the Death Penalty"
and "Stop the Execution of Wesley Baker," in one hand and a small candle
in the other.
There were no protesters defending the death penalty.
"We're out here because we oppose the death penalty," said Lorig
Charkovidian of Maryland Citizens Against State Executions. "Our hearts go
out to the victims' families, but this doesn't solve any problems; it
creates more victims. The governor has done nothing, he's just ignored
Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich refused late Monday to grant Baker
"Wesley is my friend," said Bonnita Spikes of Beltsville, who held a
poster with Baker's picture on it. "I've seen him every day for the past
couple of months. I got to know him."
She said she last saw him about 5 p.m. Monday.
"He was upbeat, calm, his spirit is good," she said. Baker also told her
that recent visits from Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore and state
Delegate Salima Marriott, D-Baltimore, were "monumental moments" for him.
"It's hard knowing one of my friends is going to die tonight," said
Spikes. "He was a victim of the system. Killing him is not the answer.
This vicious cycle of killing will never end."
After the media told protesters of Baker's death at 9:18 p.m., they
embraced one another, with some shouting, "Wesley, your death will not be
When Baker's attorney, Gary Christopher, left the prison after the
execution was carried out, he thanked the demonstrators. "He was moved
beyond measure for all the support," Christopher said. "It meant an awful
lot to him."
"Wesley said he hopes some good comes from this," Christopher said, adding
that Baker hoped that his execution would help the death penalty "wither
away" in Maryland.
(source: Associated Press)
Maryland Executes Woman's Killer----Study Had Found Racial Disparities
Death row inmate Wesley E. Baker died by lethal injection Monday night,
becoming the 1st black man executed in Maryland since a state-sponsored
study found disparities, by race and geography, in how the death penalty
law is used.
Baker, 47, was condemned to death for fatally shooting Jane Tyson, in
front of her 2 grandchildren, in a robbery in a Catonsville mall parking
lot more than a decade ago.
The execution began at 9:08 p.m. at the old Maryland State Penitentiary in
Baltimore. The curtain behind the window into the execution chamber
opened, and Baker could be seen lying on a gurney, covered to his chest
with a white sheet. His outstretched arms were bound by leather straps,
and intravenous lines came from a hole in the wall into both of his arms.
Prison chaplain Charles Canterna touched his face and right hand, then
stepped away. About 9:10, Baker's mouth moved, as he appeared to speak or
swallow. The chaplain approached him, said a few words and touched his
Baker took 6 or 7 deep breaths. Each was a rasping sound audible to the
witnesses, who included media representatives, 3 of Baker's attorneys, and
Baltimore County Police Chief Terrence B. Sheridan.
4 members of Tyson's family, who were not identified, watched from an area
separate from the other witnesses.
The curtain into the chamber was closed at 9:16 p.m. One of 7 men
sentenced to die in Maryland, Baker was pronounced dead at 9:18 p.m.
He was executed only hours after the state's highest court and the U.S.
Supreme Court declined to intervene in the case and less than an hour
after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) announced that he would not grant
Baker was the 1st execution in the state since June 2004 and the 5th since
the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
"I'm glad it's over," Tyson's brother Martin Andree said in a phone
interview Monday night from his home in Florida. "Anytime somebody's life
is taken, it is a sad thing. But we have a justice system, and as long as
that's the law, we need to follow through with it."
He added that the delays caused by appeals and a death penalty moratorium
made it feel "like prying the scab off a wound. . . . I think that wound
will heal now."
In the gentle snow outside the former penitentiary, about 50 protesters
chanted and carried signs. One said: "Stop the Execution of Wesley Baker."
Another: "Maryland's Death Penalty: Proven Arbitrary, Proven Racist."
At one point, inmates inside the facility started a chant of their own --
"Don't kill him! Don't kill him!" -- that was audible on the street below.
The silhouettes of their fists pumping in the air could be seen through a
window in the building's upper reaches.
"He was moved beyond measure by all the support you have given him over
the years," Baker's lead attorney, Gary Christopher, told the assembled
throng Monday night. On his last day, Baker "hoped that some good comes of
this," he added. "And that is that the death penalty will wither away, and
that his passing will play some role in that."
Earlier in the day, Baker met with Bonnita Spikes, a death penalty
opponent who visited him regularly. "His faith is strong," said Spikes, an
organizer with Maryland Citizens Against State Executions. "He was calm. I
think he's in a good place, actually. Mentally, he's in a good place."
Baker's mother, Delores Williams, brother, sister and friends also met
with him Monday.
Baker's social worker, Marie Lori James-Monroe, was with him until 6 p.m.
She said Baker spent the day "on the phone a lot with his family. There
was just so much commotion today and so many visitors in and out."
When she asked him about funeral arrangements, he told her he wanted
"whatever would be least troublesome to his mother," she said.
Baker was convicted in 1992 of murdering Tyson in a robbery that netted
only about $10. Tyson, a 49-year-old teacher's aide, was shot in the head
in the parking lot of a Catonsville mall, less than a mile from her home
in Baltimore County.
Baker's case has intensified debate about the state's use of the death
penalty, in part because he is precisely the person that the
state-sponsored study found is most likely to be condemned to die: a black
man who kills a white person in Baltimore County.
5 of the remaining 6 men on Maryland's death row are black, and the
victims of all but 1 were white. 2 of the condemned were convicted for
killings in Baltimore County.
Since Ehrlich signed Baker's death warrant last month, Baker's attorneys
had filed a barrage of petitions and appeals. They had also asked Ehrlich
to commute Baker's sentence to life without the possibility of parole,
detailing circumstances of Baker's childhood that they say mitigate his
Born of rape to a woman not yet 14 years old, he was "unwanted and
resented by his mother, who beat him with electric cords and belts," the
petition states. Baker was sexually abused by age 5, "left to fend for
himself in the streets from age eight; sleeping in abandoned cars and
hotel bathrooms," it says.
Debate over the death penalty has risen across the country. Last week,
Kenneth Boyd became the 1,000th person executed since the death penalty
In Virginia, Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) commuted the death sentence of Robin
M. Lovitt last week because the state had thrown out evidence. In
California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has said he is considering
whether to commute the death sentence of Stanley "Tookie" Williams, a
co-founder of the Crips, the Los Angeles street gang, scheduled to be
executed by injection Dec. 13.
(source: The Washington Post)
Protest ends with sorrow, disappointment----Death penalty foes join
Baker's mother in vigil outside prison
Wesley Eugene Baker's mother slipped into the crowd of death-penalty
protesters gathered outside the prison gates as a steady snow fell.
But few of them seemed to know who Delores Williams was, even as they
followed her up the street to stand at the prison gates and await word
that her 47-year-old son had been executed. And not afterward, when the
announcement was made that Baker was dead.
She blended in with the other demonstrators who had stood in the snow and
30-degree temperatures, waiting to hear Baker's fate.
"We're standing by him and his mother. Even if nothing else came from it,
we want to let her know we support her through the cold-blooded killing of
her third son," said Terry Fitzgerald of Physicians for Social
Responsibility, bundled up in a knit hat and scarf.
Some of the protesters began gathering about 4 p.m. at the corner of
Fallsway and East Madison Street, a block from Supermax, as part of a
weekly demonstration against the death penalty. The crowd swelled
throughout the evening.
The news that an execution was about to occur wasn't official at first.
Just rumor and speculation - a friend of a friend; someone else got an
They stood in the snow with ice crystals forming on the tips of their wool
hats and the shoulders of their parkas.
They held the signs saying: "Stop the racist death penalty!" and "Not in
Denise Smith was unaffiliated with any of the activist groups. "I just
knew I was coming out. I always knew it was wrong," said the Northeast
Baltimore resident, who held a "Not in my name" sign. "Don't say you did
it to protect the citizens of Maryland," she said. "I didn't ask you to do
At 7 p.m. the snow was coming down hard. The rush hour traffic was easing
up, and only a few motorists were honking their horns.
Meredith Curtis, who works for the American Civil Liberties Union, said
she didn't want to be home wondering what was happening at the prison. "I
think it's important for us to represent the many people who oppose the
death penalty in Maryland," she said.
About 8 p.m. Gary E. Proctor, an attorney for Baker, arrived. He said he
had come from visiting Baker and described the last minutes they had
together. Baker had been with his mother, sister, brother and a childhood
friend. They talked about movies and chatted. When they were told they had
to leave, Baker had cried.
The protesters started chanting, "Ehrlich says Death Row. We say hell no,"
about 8:30 p.m.
Lorig Charkoudian, 32, of Silver Spring held up a picture of Baker.
"There's no question it was a brutal murder, and our hearts go out to the
Tyson family," she said. But, she said, the death penalty "creates more
victims. Wesley's mother has already lost two sons to murder. Killing
another son of hers only creates another grieving mother and doesn't do
anything to bring back a life."
By then, the crowd of protesters had grown to about 50.
Just before 9 p.m. the group began singing "Amazing Grace." At the tick of
9 p.m. they switched to a version of "This Little Light of Mine": "All
around death row, I'm going to let it shine."
Baker's mother and sister had slipped into the crowd. No one made an
announcement. A friend of a social worker who had worked on Baker's case
shielded the two women with an umbrella.
Then, in a single file, they began a pilgrimage up the street to the
barbed-wire front gates of the prison complex. The singing and swaying
At 9:30 p.m., Jane Henderson from Maryland Citizens Against State
Executions told the crowd that Baker had died at 9:18 p.m. She asked for a
moment of silence for Baker, his family and the family of Jane Tyson.
A few of the protesters cried. A few made short speeches.
Lori James-Monroe, a social worker who worked on Baker's case, and Stan
"P.J." Woody, a friend of James-Monroe, hugged Baker's mother and sister.
"Stay strong," Woody told Baker's mother. "Stay strong."
Gary W. Christopher, another of Baker's lawyers, thanked the crowd for its
support. Baker "was moved beyond the measure that you came out here with
snow, in bad weather," Christopher said. "It meant an awful lot to him. He
hopes that if some good comes from this, it's that this obscenity that is
the death penalty withers away and that his passing played some role in
(source: Baltimore Sun)
Criminal justice has 2 important goals: separating the innocent from the
guilty and assuring timely punishment for the latter. Trouble is, those
two purposes often conflict. Court appeals allow the wrongly convicted to
win exoneration. But the right of appeal often allows the guilty to
postpone justice for years or even decades.
That conflict is at the heart of the debate on a bill in Congress that
would limit appeals from state courts to federal courts. Though the
supporters have a valid concern, their remedy looks like the wrong one.
In recent years, advances in the use of DNA analysis have served to clear
many innocent people who spent years on Death Row. According to the Death
Penalty Information Center, the number of exonerations stands at 122.
These cases indicate that our criminal justice system needs serious
safeguards to prevent mistaken convictions. The chief protection is known
as habeas corpus, which allows defendants to challenge the
constitutionality of their convictions. But that right can be abused. The
Supreme Court, recognizing that, has made it harder to use, and in 1996,
Congress imposed restrictions aimed at halting endless litigation.
Those steps have not satisfied many people, including those at the
National District Attorneys Association, which says things are as bad as
ever. Now, Congress is considering a bill called the Streamlined
Procedures Act that would further narrow this avenue.
When an innocent person is wrongfully convicted, it's in the interest of
everyone but the actual perpetrator to see the mistake corrected. The
federal courts long have assumed that responsibility. Under this bill,
defendants would find it tougher to get access to those courts.
Supporters of the bill are weary at the protracted delays in administering
the death penalty. Their frustration is understandable, based on the
convicted murderers they cite who have put off their executions for 15
years or more. But it's not at all clear that frivolous habeas appeals are
still creating significant delays.
There have not been conclusive studies on the effect of the 1996 law, and
the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts says existing data don't make
the case for further limiting habeas appeals. The average amount of time
it takes for a death sentence to be imposed has remained stable since
1996, rather than dropping--but that may be the result of judges being
more careful in the wake of so many exonerations, not to shortcomings in
You would expect federal judges to bridle at efforts to limit their power
to review the decisions of state courts. You might not expect those in
charge of the state courts to agree. Yet the Conference of Chief Justices
and the Conference of State Court Administrators oppose the bill, fearing
it would make it too hard for "those claiming to be wrongfully convicted
to obtain reasonable and timely review of their convictions."
Given that risk, Congress would be well-advised not to make further
changes in habeas until there is better information on the effects of the
last change. When it comes to criminal justice, it's good to be fast, but
it's better to be right.
(source: Editorial, Chicago Tribune)
Politicizing the death penalty
Kenneth Boyd didn't want to be remembered as a statistic. "I don't like
the idea of being picked as a number," he remarked. "I'd hate to be
remembered as that."
Boyd's comments, and his story, made national press last week when he
became the thousandth person to be executed in the United States since a
moratorium on capital punishment was lifted in 1977. Early Friday morning
a deadly trio of chemicals was injected into his body by the North
Carolina Department of Correction as punishment for a 1994 double murder.
He died shortly after 2 a.m. Unfortunately, Boyd's wishes have not been
honored by the popular press, and he is sure to be remembered with the
dubious distinction of being number 1,000.
This milestone does not mark the thousandth execution in U.S. history;
rather, it marks the thousandth since capital punishment came back into
use in 1977, following a 10-year lapse. Between 1968 and 1976 no
executions were carried out in the United States, though criminals were
still subject to death sentences. The moratorium was not officially
ordered; it resulted from negative public perception of the death penalty
and a host of legal questions that surrounded the practice at the time.
In the late 1970s, at a time just after the unofficial ban on capital
punishment was lifted, Stanley "Tookie" Williams co-founded a gang now
known as the "Crips." In 1979 he killed 4 people with a shotgun in a
robbery that made him only a few spare bills. Williams was convicted of
the crime and sent to death row, where at the time he planned to continue
making trouble as he had always done. The gang he co-founded has since
grown to become one of the largest gangs in the country, which controls
drug trafficking and is responsible for thousands of deaths and robberies.
Some of the guards at the prison where Williams has waited decades for his
sentence to be carried out maintain that he still calls some of the shots
from within prison. He denies these claims.
In fact, Williams claims to have been reformed. He has educated himself,
developed a conscience, and tried to help right some of the wrongs he has
done. He says that he is a changed man: "There is no part of me that
existed then that exists now." Williams has co-authored children's books
from within prison that warn against the dangers of gang life and suggest
ways to avoid becoming involved in gangs. He's spoken about these topics
through telephone broadcasts, and he's said to have forged a truce between
rival gangs in New Jersey. He's been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize,
and has become a model of reform and hope in the criminal justice system
to many people.
Williams is seeking clemency in a hearing with California governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger on Dec. 8. Groups which support Williams' request for
clemency and groups which do not are both petitioning the governor to help
influence his decision. Supporting groups say that Williams has become a
valuable citizen, helping to steer youngsters away from gang violence with
his books. Those who favor his being put to death seek "justice" for the
families of those killed, and suggest that Williams wrote the books as a
ploy to gain clemency so that he can continue to pull the strings in the
violent Crips gang.
Whether or not Stanley Williams earns a spot just below Kenneth Boyd on
the "U.S. executions since 1977" list, people will be angry at the
governor or at the legal system for making a mistake. The politicization
of the death penalty is among its most troubling components. If the
execution of a man can be politically influenced, can we be sure that we
have made the decision to kill with the level of objective surety
appropriate for such a severe punishment? Perhaps it is this uncertainty
that has made our thousandth recent execution a story, rather than a
(source: The Daily Collegian (Massachusetts)
Convicted killer seeking new trial
Lawyers for convicted killer Jeffrey Wogenstahl told a judge Monday that
he deserves a new trial because Hamilton County prosecutors failed to
share important information about a key witness.
Wogenstahl is in federal court this week seeking to overturn his
conviction in the slaying of 10-year-old Amber Garrett, whose
disappearance and death became one of Hamilton County's most notorious
murder cases in the 1990s. His attorneys say prosecutors mishandled the
case, hid evidence and allowed a witness to give false testimony.
A hearing Monday in U.S. District Court focused on allegations that
prosecutors - including Prosecutor Joe Deters - knew that a witness, Eric
Horn, had a drug conviction but failed to disclose it to defense lawyers.
Deters has said his office was unaware of the drug case, but 2 Harrison
police officers testified Monday that investigators shared the information
One of the officers, retired Detective Ed Bettinger, said he called Deters
at home to tell him about Horn's arrest in August 1992 - after Amber's
death in 1991 but before Wogenstahl's trial in 1993.
"I knew Mr. Horn was a pivotal figure in the investigation and it would be
of immense interest to him," Bettinger said.
Deters, who is scheduled to testify today, said he did not recall being
notified of the arrest. He said the evidence against Wogenstahl, which now
includes a DNA test indicating Amber's blood was in Wogenstahl's car, is
so strong that Horn's arrest would not have had an impact on the outcome.
"This is an example of doing anything - saying anything - to avoid a death
penalty," Deters said.
Wogenstahl's lawyers disagree. They say Horn, Amber's half-brother, was
essential to the case because he disputed Wogenstahl's explanation for why
he went to Amber's house the night she disappeared.
Wogenstahl claimed he was there to buy marijuana from Horn, but
prosecutors said Wogenstahl went there to trick Horn into leaving the
house so he could abduct Amber. They say he later beat and stabbed her to
During the trial, Horn denied selling drugs to Wogenstahl or anyone else.
Wogenstahl's lawyers say that testimony is disputed by Horn's arrest on a
charge of drug trafficking and his subsequent guilty plea to a lesser
charge of drug abuse.
"It appears he lied about a matter that was relevant and important in the
trial," said Timothy Payne, one of Wogenstahl's lawyers.
One of the defense lawyers, Mark Krumbein, said he could not recall
whether prosecutors told him about Horn's arrest. The hearing continues
today before Magistrate Michael Merz.
(source: Cincinnati Enquirer)
The case of Stanley Tookie Williams explains our ambivalence about the
death penalty, and why we wonder if society would not be better off
It's not because we're enamored with Williams, the founder of the Crips
gang, cold-blooded killer of four, writer of children's books, most recent
poster child for the L.A. Times and nominee for Nobel peace and literature
prizes. It's because we don't find him worthy of a national discussion.
Between now and Dec. 13, the day he will be executed unless California
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger grants clemency, there will be an endless
parade of advocates - many of them Hollywood elites who fascinate us with
the battles they pick - who will argue that Williams is a changed man and
should be spared.
But what you won't hear is an apology and admission of guilt by Williams,
who maintains that he is innocent of 4 murders despite convictions and a
series of unsuccessful appeals. You are also unlikely to hear much about
his victims, so we will resurrect them now: They are Albert Owens, who was
26 and a military veteran when he was shot in the back twice with a
12-gauge shotgun on Feb. 28, 1979. Less than 2 weeks later, Williams
killed Yen-I Yang, 76, his wife, Tsai-Shai Yang, 63, and their visiting
daughter, Yee-Chen Lin, 43, Taiwanese immigrants who were about to sell
their business and flee a neighborhood they thought had become too rough.
Williams' total bounty for 4 murders? Some gas money.
Williams' advocates say that he has renounced violence and, by steering
young people away from gangs, is worked diligently to undo the carnage he
caused in forming the Crips, which continues today in inner cities across
America. They say that alive, Williams can save young people.
Critics doubt his sincerity, saying he is only trying to avoid death. Pete
Wilson, the former governor of California, warned against rewarding such
behavior, saying "everyone would do it."
We're not sure of Wilson's point. Would it not be in everyone's best
interest if all death-row inmates renounced violence and tried to steer
young people away from it?
It seems to us that the best argument in favor of the death penalty isn't
that it's a deterrent - there isn't much evidence of that - but that
survivors of victims often want the eye for an eye, saying it brings them
closure. But it also forces them to relive the horrible death of a loved
one, returning pain into their life decades after their loss.
Owens' survivors in recent weeks have been forced in front of the camera,
where they have made emotional pleas that Williams' execution be carried
out. Had Williams been sentenced to life without the possibility of
parole, their pain would have subsided long ago.
And had that happened, Williams would have been a forgotten man, living a
private hell for his deadly deeds, and would not be lionized and force fed
now to the public as someone of consequence.
(source: Editorial, The Robesonian)
Why 'Tookie' Williams deserves clemency -- Richard Land, the head of the
Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, is no
bleeding-heart liberal. He's a rock-hard conservative who believes so
fervently in the death penalty that he's willing to be an executioner.
Land told me that if John Couey, a Florida man who confessed to raping and
burying alive 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, is sentenced to death, he would
volunteer to give the convicted sex offender a lethal injection.
But while he's hard, Land is not heartless when it comes to the death
penalty. "If you are going to support the death penalty, then you have to
be as supportive of its equitable and just application," Land said in
response to a question I put to him. It is immoral to do otherwise, he
answered, while pointing out that the poor and people of color are much
more likely to be executed in this country.
Land probably wasn't thinking of Stanley "Tookie" Williams when he uttered
those words, but he should have been. Williams, who was sentenced to die
in the shotgun killings of four people in 1979, is scheduled to be
executed next week. On Thursday, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
will hold a private hearing to consider Williams' appeal for clemency.
Equitable and just
I don't know whether Williams is innocent of the crimes that sent him to
death row, but I'm convinced that this nation's criminal justice system
has failed to meet the "equitable and just" application test that Land
laid out. "I believe in this individual case. We've got a man who is
better off to us alive rather than dead," NAACP President Bruce Gordon
said of Williams, who he says was convicted on circumstantial evidence and
has lived an exemplary life behind bars. Williams was nominated for a
Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to steer kids away from the violent gang
life he led.
There is strong evidence that the scales of justice are way out of balance
when it comes to the people on death row. As with so much else in this
country, race matters in death penalty cases.
Killing someone white is far more likely to land a person on death row
than murdering blacks. While blacks were nearly 47% of this nation's
homicide victims from 1976 (the year the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the
death penalty) to 2002, 80% of the victims of the people on death row were
white, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
White vs. black
All but 25 of the 570 whites executed through Oct. 1 had white victims -
as did 62% of the blacks who were put to death. This suggests that the
criminal justice system places a higher value on the lives of white
capital crime victims than those of blacks. That's an inequitable and
unjust application of the death penalty. One of the 4 men Williams was
convicted of killing was white; the others were Asians.
"I have been arguing for years that this is a barbaric practice that
demeans us as a just society and erodes our moral core," Mike Farrell, an
actor and passionate death penalty opponent, said of capital punishment.
Like many others among a long list of celebrities and activists, Farrell
says Williams' efforts to end the gang violence he helped spawn by
founding a Los Angeles-based street gang is redemptive. And he has urged
Schwarzenegger to spare Williams' life.
I hope he can muster the strength to do just that. This nation struggles
with an awful duality. On the one hand, we are the strongest beacon of
light for people around the world who crave a democratic and just society.
On the other, we are aligned with countries such as China, Iran and North
Korea in carrying out capital punishment.
This duality tears at the soul of our nation and erodes the moral high
ground we claim. By commuting Williams' sentence, Schwarzenegger can help
force this nation to find ways to apply the death penalty equitably - or
end its use.
(source: Opinion, DeWayne Wickham writes weekly for USA TODAY)
UIC lecture sides with ex-gang leader
Convinced that racism and injustice were manifested during the trial of
Stanley Tookie Williams in 1981, Marlene Martin, National Director of The
New Abolitionist, a newsletter of the campaign to end the death penalty,
and Madison Hobley, a former Illinois death row inmate, passionately spoke
to UIC students on Thursday, Dec. 1, informing them of the false evidence
that led to the conviction of Williams, and asked them to take part in the
fight to save him as his execution date of Dec. 13 approaches.
In 1971, Williams co-founded one of the most infamous gangs in Los
Angeles, the Crips. In 1981, he was convicted for the murder of 4
individuals during two separate robberies, and sentenced to death row at
San Quentin State Prison. Williams regrets his involvement with gangs, but
claims to be innocent of these crimes. Regardless of his struggle to prove
his innocence, Williams has been on death row for 24 years.
Taking into consideration his past, Williams offered his words to The New
Abolitionist, "My words are not an apology, nor a dawning plea of a
condemned man. This is a declaration of truth that evokes the question,
'Can a Black man in America receive justice under the law?'"
"He doesn't deny his past." Martin stated. "But he's not going to
apologize for something he didn't do."
Martin further points out that Williams' trial was based on circumstantial
evidence. In a Sept. 2002 ruling, the ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
stated that crucial witnesses in Williams' case had "less-than-clean
backgrounds and incentives to lie in order to obtain leniency from the
state in either charging or sentencing."
Fingerprints and a boot print stained with blood were presented as
evidence against Williams, but they are not his and they have never been
A shotgun shell was also discovered at one of the crime scenes and was
said to belong to a gun purchased by Williams five years prior to the
trial. However, the gun was found under the bed of a couple faced with
felony insurance fraud charges and who was also under investigation for
murder. Ultimately, the couple served no jail time, and their murder
investigation was dropped after testifying that Williams had volunteered a
confession to them.
"The main witness at Williams' trial was a white longtime felon who was
found to have been a paid police informant. It was discovered that he was
given access to the murder file involving Williams' case. After studying
the file, he testified that Williams' had volunteered a confession to him.
As a recompense for his testimony, the witness, who was facing the death
penalty for rape, murder and mutilation, was given a lesser sentence and
the possibility of parole," Martin expressed.
Williams' final appeal challenged the organized exclusion of African
Americans from his jury pool. The Supreme Court denied the appeal on Oct.
2005. To many, this rejection symbolized the condoning of racial
discrimination and verbal assault on a minority defendant.
In an effort to inform others of the dangers of crime, gang membership,
and incarceration, William has written a series of nine highly acclaimed
children's books that earned him Nobel Peace and Literature Nominations.
In addition, his Tookie Peace Protocol for Peace has reached and
influenced the minds of over 150,000 youths, encouraging them to steer
from crime and gangs, as well as educating them about positive
alternatives. His memoir, "Blue Rage, Black Redemption," was nominated for
the James Madison Book Award. Williams' work has also gained recognition
from the U.S. President, receiving a Presidential Award for his volunteer
services to help the youth.
In addition, Williams' story was made into the movie, "Redemption: The
Stan Tookie Williams Story," starring Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx.
However, the Supreme Court's still denies the appeal and is more concerned
about following the right procedures during the trial than about revising
the case and all reasonable doubts involved.
"What struck me about this story are the priorities taken into
consideration," Gimena Gordillo, member of the International Socialist
Williams' execution date has been set for Dec.13. A team of lawyers has
formed to prepare a clemency petition for California Gov. Schwarzenegger.
To support Williams' life, visit www.savetookie.org
Martin finished the discussion with the words of Martin Luther King,
"Never again will I raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed
in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest
purveyor of violence in the world, the U.S. government."
(source: Chicago Flame (University of Illinois) )
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