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Tackling the Tookie case
Posted December 9, 2005

Stephanie Duarte
Web Editor

The death penalty is a hot topic. And now, with Stanley “Tookie” Williams scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Dec. 13, this topic is hot on my mind.

This is such a hard case, but it brings me to rethink the purpose of the death penalty. What good does it bring?
I think, at best, the death penalty can allow for mentally crazy murderers, that is, murderers who cannot be helped, to be removed from the streets, thus keeping the public safe.

Yes, these villains could be locked up in a prison for life, but if they are mentally insane, is it worth spending so much money to keep them locked in a cell? There are better ways to use this money that do not necessarily involve the death penalty or lonely prison cells. See my last column on arts in education.

Rehabilitation and its effectiveness on mentally ill people is a case that I do not know much about, but let’s look at Tookie’s story.

This man, who co-founded the Crips and murdered four individuals 26 years ago, made life miserable for many people. Since then, he has turned around during his prison time. He is now a motivational figure for many and leads the fight against gangs and street violence.

In hearing about this case, I was interested in what other people had to say. I read an LA Times editorial from a man who really wanted to let people know how hard Tookie made it for people to live during the days when Tookie and the Crips ruled the streets.

Does this lifestyle change make Tookie a hero? Of course not. He still robbed four people of their chance to live a long life. Other rationales from the pro-Tookie crowd include his authoring children’s books and being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

This still doesn’t qualify this man as a hero. Anyone, from a university professor to a former winner, can make a nomination. Mr. Nobel himself has an interesting history. He invented dynamite, an invention that led to the death of millions.

This man is not a hero in my mind, but I do think that the work he is doing and the testament of his life has significant value. He is now benefiting the community through spreading his story of how he was able to change his way of life. It’s inspiring to see how a man with the hardships he has encountered has gone from gang leader and murderer to a community leader. Even more inspiring is the fact that he is changing the lives of others through his story. He has become a role model. This doesn’t make up for the crimes he has committed, but it’s a large factor to consider.

If Tookie is executed, our state is showing all those criminals who continue to do injustice to the community that no good will come from changing their way of life. His execution will show criminals who live in prisons that they shouldn’t bother to repent, forgive or get an education while in prison. Basically, there is no hope for people who commit these crimes.

It’s inhumane. We should be encouraging others to strive for their personal best. By executing Tookie, we are encouraging criminals to sit in the corner of their stale prison cells and maybe, possibly think about what they did… for years.

We can think of it as a really long “time-out.” Yes, that is putting a lot
of faith in our society.

Stephanie Duarte, a senior communications major, is web editor of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at