Schwarzenegger vows to terminate reformed gang leader - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
December 12, 2005

Schwarzenegger vows to terminate reformed gang leader

-12/12/05

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator movie star turned governor of California, has rebuffed clemency claims from church and civic leaders for former Crips gang leader Stanley ëTookieí Williams, who is now due to be executed on Tuesday morning.

But by ignoring both the lack of convincing evidence against Williams and his two decades of constant work against gang violence since he reformed in 1993, the governorís critics accuse him of ìputting redemption in the death chamberî.

Earlier on 11 December 2005, California's Supreme Court and a federal appeals court both refused a stay of execution.

Barring a last-minute intervention by federal courts, Williams, aged 51, will die by lethal injection at 00.01 (08.01 GMT) at San Quentin prison, north of San Francisco.

The former criminal has been backed by ex-Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Rev Jesse Jackson and a string of church figures, civil rights groups, and black leaders.

He denies four brutal murders in 1979, but admits he lived a life of heinous crime as founder and leader of the notorious Los Angeles Crips gang.

Convicted wholly on circumstantial evidence, Williams was sent to death row through the evidence of a fellow gang member who gained clemency by testifying against him, and on the basis of scientifically dubious forensics which the authorities refuse to re-examine in spite of expert testimony against it.

However Governor Schwarzenegger is jealous of his ìtough guyî image, and in an election year with pro-death penalty votes hanging on his decision, he has refused to save a man who has weaned thousands of youngsters off violence.

ëTookieí Williams has become a major figure in the gang peace movement, and has been backed by evangelical leaders Jim Wallis, of Sojourners, and others involved in trying to turn around urban violence.

He has co-authored 10 books from Death Row seeking to persuade youngsters to abandon violence. He urges gang kids to get out before it destroys them and the lives of their families.

Williams first made a public plea to hundreds of gang members at a summit called Hands Across Watts in 1993. On a pre-recorded videotape filmed for the event he told the young gang members that he lamented his history.

Says the condemned man: ìI never thought I could change my life, that I thought I would be a Crip forever. But I developed common sense, wisdom and knowledge. I changed.î

The mother of one of his alleged victims has continued to campaign vocally for his execution, however, and the support of top celebrities like rapper Snoop Dogg and Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx is thought to have riled hard-line Republicans and the pro-death penalty religious right.

Writing in the progressive Christian magazine Sojourners recently, supporter David Batstone says: ìIn the eyes of the criminal justice system, a redeemed criminal is simply another criminalÖ Redemption, in other words, has no place in our justice system. We do not offer a path for conversion. Once marked for condemnation, an offender's destiny is fixed.î

He continued: ìElsewhere in the world, four Christian Peacemaker Teams members are marked for execution by a radical terrorist group in Iraq. The circumstances are dramatically different, so I hesitate to make the connection. We are appalled by the blind ideology that drives the terrorists and leads them to cheapen the value of human life. In this ideology, the individual is a tool for political expediency. Don't we want to offer our citizens more in a democracy?î

Simon Barrow from the UK Christian think-tank Ekklesia commented: ìArnold Schwarzenegger has made millions of dollars from movies promoting the ëmyth of redemptive violenceí ñ the false idea that killing brings healing. It doesnít. ëTookieí Williams has learned that lesson. How sad that the Terminator is not tough enough to do so too.î

The Los Angeles district attorney's office has said of Williams: ìThere can be no redemption... and there should be no mercy.î

Alex Kirby, a religious analyst for the BBC, says: ìOddly, for a country as obsessed with religious observance as the US, the Christian argument seems almost an afterthought. If it were central, the district attorney's statement would have to be withdrawn, because in traditional Christian theology everybody is eligible for redemption.î

Williamsí supporters say they will go on appealing until the last moment. They say executing him will take away the life of someone who has the power to bring others back from the brink of destruction.

[Also on Ekklesia: World cities to declare against death penalty; Christians heartened by US decline in death sentences; A Call for Reckoning: Religion and the Death Penalty; Churches plead with Gaddafi for clemency over death sentences; Campaigning nun to speak in London against death penalty]

Schwarzenegger vows to terminate reformed gang leader

-12/12/05

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Terminator movie star turned governor of California, has rebuffed clemency claims from church and civic leaders for former Crips gang leader Stanley ëTookie' Williams, who is now due to be executed on Tuesday morning.

But by ignoring both the lack of convincing evidence against Williams and his two decades of constant work against gang violence since he reformed in 1993, the governor's critics accuse him of 'putting redemption in the death chamber'.

Earlier on 11 December 2005, California's Supreme Court and a federal appeals court both refused a stay of execution.

Barring a last-minute intervention by federal courts, Williams, aged 51, will die by lethal injection at 00.01 (08.01 GMT) at San Quentin prison, north of San Francisco.

The former criminal has been backed by ex-Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Rev Jesse Jackson and a string of church figures, civil rights groups, and black leaders.

He denies four brutal murders in 1979, but admits he lived a life of heinous crime as founder and leader of the notorious Los Angeles Crips gang.

Convicted wholly on circumstantial evidence, Williams was sent to death row through the evidence of a fellow gang member who gained clemency by testifying against him, and on the basis of scientifically dubious forensics which the authorities refuse to re-examine in spite of expert testimony against it.

However Governor Schwarzenegger is jealous of his 'tough guy' image, and in an election year with pro-death penalty votes hanging on his decision, he has refused to save a man who has weaned thousands of youngsters off violence.

ëTookie' Williams has become a major figure in the gang peace movement, and has been backed by evangelical leaders Jim Wallis, of Sojourners, and others involved in trying to turn around urban violence.

He has co-authored 10 books from Death Row seeking to persuade youngsters to abandon violence. He urges gang kids to get out before it destroys them and the lives of their families.

Williams first made a public plea to hundreds of gang members at a summit called Hands Across Watts in 1993. On a pre-recorded videotape filmed for the event he told the young gang members that he lamented his history.

Says the condemned man: 'I never thought I could change my life, that I thought I would be a Crip forever. But I developed common sense, wisdom and knowledge. I changed.'

The mother of one of his alleged victims has continued to campaign vocally for his execution, however, and the support of top celebrities like rapper Snoop Dogg and Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx is thought to have riled hard-line Republicans and the pro-death penalty religious right.

Writing in the progressive Christian magazine Sojourners recently, supporter David Batstone says: 'In the eyes of the criminal justice system, a redeemed criminal is simply another criminalÖ Redemption, in other words, has no place in our justice system. We do not offer a path for conversion. Once marked for condemnation, an offender's destiny is fixed.'

He continued: 'Elsewhere in the world, four Christian Peacemaker Teams members are marked for execution by a radical terrorist group in Iraq. The circumstances are dramatically different, so I hesitate to make the connection. We are appalled by the blind ideology that drives the terrorists and leads them to cheapen the value of human life. In this ideology, the individual is a tool for political expediency. Don't we want to offer our citizens more in a democracy?'

Simon Barrow from the UK Christian think-tank Ekklesia commented: 'Arnold Schwarzenegger has made millions of dollars from movies promoting the ëmyth of redemptive violence' - the false idea that killing brings healing. It doesn't. ëTookie' Williams has learned that lesson. How sad that the Terminator is not tough enough to do so too.'

The Los Angeles district attorney's office has said of Williams: 'There can be no redemption... and there should be no mercy.'

Alex Kirby, a religious analyst for the BBC, says: 'Oddly, for a country as obsessed with religious observance as the US, the Christian argument seems almost an afterthought. If it were central, the district attorney's statement would have to be withdrawn, because in traditional Christian theology everybody is eligible for redemption.'

Williams' supporters say they will go on appealing until the last moment. They say executing him will take away the life of someone who has the power to bring others back from the brink of destruction.

[Also on Ekklesia: World cities to declare against death penalty; Christians heartened by US decline in death sentences; A Call for Reckoning: Religion and the Death Penalty; Churches plead with Gaddafi for clemency over death sentences; Campaigning nun to speak in London against death penalty]

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