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California | Police State and Prisons

An Interview with Stanley Tookie Williams
by Democracy Now & Phil Gasper (reposted)
Wednesday Nov 30th, 2005 6:44 AM


A conversation with death row prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams from his cell in San Quentin. He helped start the Crips street gang - his greatest regret - but behind bars he has become a leading advocate for the end of gang violence. He has written nine books and has been nominated several times for the Nobel Peace Prize. He is scheduled to die on Dec. 13 unless Governor Schwarzenegger grants him clemency. Actions are planned across the world today in what has been described as International Save Tookie Day.
We look at the case of death row prisoner Stanley Tookie Williams. In just under two weeks, on December 13, the 51-year-old Williams is scheduled to be executed by the state of California. Williams is a convicted murderer and the co-founder of one of the country's most notorious street gangs, the Crips. But since his incarceration he has also become a Nobel Peace Prize nominated children's author and a vocal advocate against gang violence.

Stanley Tookie Williams' life now largely rests in the hands of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger who has the power to commute the death sentence. On December 8th the governor will meet with Williams" defense team to hear its case for executive clemency. An international campaign to save his life has also been growing. Actions are planned across the world today in what has been described as International Save Tookie Day. In Los Angeles hip hop star Snoop Dogg and actor Jamie Foxx will join others in reading excerpts from Williams' books. Foxx starred in a film about Tookie's life titled Redemption. To date over 32,000 people have signed online petitions calling for Schwarzenegger to commute the death sentence.

The story of Tookie Williams begins in the streets of Los Angeles in the early 1970s. At the age of 17 he started the Crips street gang with his friend Raymond Washington. The gang would expand across the country and even overseas. In 1979 Williams was arrested in connection with four murders.

He was convicted of shooting dead a 7-Eleven clerk named Albert Owens and of robbing and killing a Taiwanese motel owner along with his wife and daughter. He was sentenced in 1981 to four death sentences.

Tookie Williams has always maintained his innocence and claims he received an unfair trial, in part, because he was convicted by an all-white jury. In 1993, Williams life took a dramatic turn when he agreed to record a videotaped message from death row supporting a truce between the Crips and the Bloods. The videotape was shown during a peace summit meeting attended by over 400 gang members.

* Stanley Tookie Williams, speaking in 1993.

After Tookie Williams addressed the Hands Across Watts gang peace summit in 1993, he became more involved in helping to keep young people out of gangs. With the help of his main advocate, Barbara Becnel, Williams soon began writing children"s books and speaking with young people about the gang life. He also helped orchestrate truces between gangs.

While his court appeals have largely been exhausted, judges have publicly admitted there is a strong case for clemency. In 2002, a three-judge panel on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld his death sentence but in a rare move urged then-Governor Gray Davis to consider commuting the death sentence. The judges praised Tookie Williams for his "laudable efforts opposing gang violence" and his "good works and accomplishments since incarceration."

On Tuesday I had a chance to interview Stanley Tookie Williams from death row in San Quentin. He called us collect on a phone monitored by prison officials.

* Stanley Tookie Williams, speaking from San Quentin death row.


More information: http:/SaveTookie.org

LISTEN ONLINE:
http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=05/11/30/153247

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Interview With Phil Gasper:

SOME PROSECUTORS, police and prison officials have been trying to discredit you by saying that you are still an active gang member. What's your response?

IT'S QUITE a spurious allegation that these people are putting out. The fact of the matter is that I have a report from the San Quentin Institutional Classification Committee from 2004, which quotes a lieutenant saying that he hadn't observed anything that was gang-related about me for the past 10 years. It also commended me for 10 years of a positive program.

So it's quite contradictory for a San Quentin spokesperson-or anyone else, for that matter-to state that I'm still involved in gang activity, when that same person's superiors say I've been programming positively for over 10 years.

SOME OF the same people say that if you were serious about opposing gang violence, you would allow the authorities to "debrief" you on what you know about the Crips. Do you have any inside information that could be used to weaken the Crips or other gangs, and why have you refused to be debriefed?

THE FACT of the matter is that "debriefing" is a euphemism for snitching-telling on people. In my redemptive transition, I vowed to myself not to participate in any kind of violence, or anything that would harm other people, and for me to tell on another person is, in my opinion, harming another individual.

But first and foremost, I have no information.

Secondly, there's another contradiction with these individuals who continuously promote this claim about me. As it stands, the Departmental Operations Manual clearly states that the only gangs or individuals who will be debriefed are prison gangs. The Crips and the Bloods are not considered prison gangs. Prison gangs are those that were formed and created in the prison.

If I were a gang member, and if there was any iota of data that showed this, I would never have left the hole. I was in there in solitary confinement for close to seven years. And if debriefing was necessary-if it was legal for a street gang-then they would have done that to me then.

THE MEDIA has made much of the fact that you have never apologized to the murder victims' families in your case-you've said that you would rather die than lie about something you didn't do. Do you have anything you would like to say to the victims' families?

IF I had the opportunity to talk to talk to any victims' family members, I would say that I can empathize and I sympathize with their loss of a loved one. I would say the same thing to anyone who has lost a loved one.

However, in regards to me apologizing, it would be wrong of me to apologize for something I didn't do. I didn't commit those crimes. I've been averring my innocence since day one, and it is the truth. So I cannot apologize for something I didn't do.

It would be wrong of me. It would be a coward's act. I would be craven to proclaim guilt for something I didn't do. And that's why I say that I'd rather just go on and die than to lie about something that is so untrue.

WHAT MADE you decide to redirect your life and dedicate yourself to helping kids?

I'VE LIVED a pathetic life, and I believe it was education that helped me to change. It was through education that I was able to create common sense and use reasoning. And it was through this that I developed a conscience that led to my redemption.

This is something I feel I was obligated to do as a man, period-to do something that would help youth out there. I feel obligated to try to convince them that the life that they wanted to live or are thinking about living-the so-called thug life, or the gang life, or the criminal life, or the drug life-will ruin their lives forever. I was motivated to do something in my small way-to make a contribution.

Read More
http://counterpunch.org/gasper11292005.html
§Life on Death Row
by Counterpunch (repost) Wednesday Nov 30th, 2005 6:46 AM
Unless Governor Schwarzenegger grants clemency Tookie Williams will be executed at San Quentin on December 13th. (Those who do not know about Williams and his work should consult http://www.tookie.com. And for a petition on his behalf and other actions see http://www.savetookie.org.) One reason arguments for clemency based on rehabilitation so often fall on deaf ears is our lack of knowledge of what it is like to live on death row and what happens existentially to human beings in that situation. (I'm hopeful that I can find some way to get this essay into Governor Schwarzenegger's hands. And any help from readers will be appreciated. The holiday season begins: wouldn't it be wonderful if this year some of it were about peace on earth and good will toward all human beings?)

The following essay takes the form of a dramatic monologue. It is based on two meetings I had in May of 2005 with a man who's been on death row in San Quentin for the past 15 years. The meetings (one lasting 75 minutes; the other two hours) were face to face in booths over a telephone with a plexi-glass partition between us. I was not permitted to take either pencil and paper or a tape recorder to the meetings. Indeed, had the authorities known I planned to write this work I would not have been permitted inside San Quentin. Additionally, I met with the lawyer who represented the inmate in the appeals process for 10 years, a private investigator who does field work in connection with the appeals process, and an attorney who has done extensive work documenting conditions within California's prisons. I also read the court transcripts of the inmate's original trial and penalty phase trial as well as a number of secondary sources on prUnless Governor Schwarzenegger grants clemency Tookie Williams will be executed at San Quentin on December 13th. (Those who do not know about Williams and his work should consult http://www.tookie.com. And for a petition on his behalf and other actions see http://www.savetookie.org.) One reason arguments for clemency based on rehabilitation so often fall on deaf ears is our lack of knowledge of what it is like to live on death row and what happens existentially to human beings in that situation. (I'm hopeful that I can find some way to get this essay into Governor Schwarzenegger's hands. And any help from readers will be appreciated. The holiday season begins: wouldn't it be wonderful if this year some of it were about peace on earth and good will toward all human beings?)

The following essay takes the form of a dramatic monologue. It is based on two meetings I had in May of 2005 with a man who's been on death row in San Quentin for the past 15 years. The meetings (one lasting 75 minutes; the other two hours) were face to face in booths over a telephone with a plexi-glass partition between us. I was not permitted to take either pencil and paper or a tape recorder to the meetings. Indeed, had the authorities known I planned to write this work I would not have been permitted inside San Quentin. Additionally, I met with the lawyer who represented the inmate in the appeals process for 10 years, a private investigator who does field work in connection with the appeals process, and an attorney who has done extensive work documenting conditions within California's prisons. I also read the court transcripts of the inmate's original trial and penalty phase trial as well as a number of secondary sources on prison life. The inmate's appeal of the death sentence is now at the Federal level. For that reason I have been advised by attorneys not to use his name and to take other steps to disguise his identity. Within the terms of that restriction what follows is a factually complete document. There are, of course, over 600 inmates currently on death row in San Quentin. ison life. The inmate's appeal of the death sentence is now at the Federal level. For that reason I have been advised by attorneys not to use his name and to take other steps to disguise his identity. Within the terms of that restriction what follows is a factually complete document. There are, of course, over 600 inmates currently on death row in San Quentin.

Read Essay:
http://counterpunch.org/davis11292005.html
§Tookie Williams, Shame and Clemency: Arnold Schwarzenegger's Curious Power
by CounterPunch (reposted) Wednesday Nov 30th, 2005 6:51 AM
While in prison, Williams has written a number of children's books focusing on the perils of gang life; he has written an acclaimed memoir, Blue Rage, Black Redemption; has been nominated multiple times for the Nobel Prize for both Peace and Literature; and has, by some irony that, we may hope, will come to the attention of government officials next month, won a Presidential Call to Service award from George W. Bush in 2005 for his volunteer efforts to help wayward youth.

The prosecutor in Williams' trial eliminated three potential African- American jurors, resulting in a nearly all-white jury. The California Supreme Court had twice censured the same prosecutor for discriminatory practices. During the trial, the same prosecutor made several racist comparisons of Williams to an 'animal' stalking in the 'jungle'.

One can't help but feel impotent, even ashamed, in offering casual reflections on the death penalty, when it truly is a life-and-death matter for others. At the same time, I am not prepared to lead an insurrection to spring Tookie Williams from his cell, and to simply recite the facts about his case doesn't seem like much of a service. These facts would be largely borrowed from countless other sites where they are already easily accessible. So what's left is 'consciousness raising': a mixture of facts, persuasion, and communicable outrage.

But let us begin with the requisite stab at difference-making. By all means, protest. Sign petitions. Help to nominate Williams, again, for the Nobel Peace Prize. Write to governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (governor [at] governor.ca.gov), or call him in Sacramento (916-445-4821), and implore him to grant clemency. If you get through, you may wish to comment on the injustice of a world in which a vapid body-builder has, largely by marrying up, been catapulted into a position in which he, with full force of law, is to decide whether another human being lives or dies. If you join the campaign to nominate Williams for the Nobel, you might point out that he is surely no less suitable a candidate than Kim Jong Il or Henry Kissinger. These men assuredly have blood on their hands, and have not done much of anything in the way of repentance. The same cannot be said of Stan Williams. (Among those who are permitted to make Peace Prize nominations are "University rectors; professors of social sciences, history, philosophy, law and theology; directors of peace research institutes and foreign policy institutes." If you fall into one of these categories and are willing to co- sponsor the nomination, please send details to Phil Gasper, Professor of Philosophy, Notre Dame de Namur University, pgasper [at] ndnu.edu.)

Read More
http://counterpunch.org/smith11282005.html
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Interview with Stanley Tookie Williams Edited from Democracy Now!Save Tookie NOW!!!Monday Dec 5th, 2005 12:41 AM