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Commentary :: Race
Tookie: From chaos to consciousness
11 Dec 2005
Modified: 04:07:24 PM
The name Stanley Tookie Williams is both famous and infamous... It can be said that Tookie didn’t receive a fair trial, by any standard. How can he then face death?
Mumia Abu-Jamal from death row:
Tookie: From chaos to consciousness

The name Stanley Tookie Williams is both famous and infamous.

Infamous because of his multiple murder convictions in California, which led him to death row; famous because of his works while there and the growing movement to spare his life and perhaps achieve his freedom from California’s notorious San Quentin prison.

Those works include the writing of several award-winning, anti-gang and anti-violence books, many of them written especially for young folks, which have turned many away from the perils and pitfalls of gang life.

They respond to Tookie, because they know that he knows what he’s talking about. Tookie is one of the founders of the Crips gang, which has spread all across the nation. As one of the founders of Cripdom, his words have a resonance that others, either in government or the church, simply can’t match.

Tookie’s life example is also known to us through the acting of the Oscar-winning Jamie Foxx, who portrayed the muscular former gangbanger in a teledrama called “Redemption.” Foxx, the man and celebrity, has joined the call to California’s governor, fellow actor Arnold Schwarzenegger, to commute his death sentences to life. Just recently, Foxx was joined by his fellow actor, Will Smith, and rapper Snoop Dogg, who has echoed Foxx’s call.

Several months ago, the anti-death penalty publication The New Abolitionist (published by the Chicago-based Campaign to End the Death Penalty) published a brief letter from Tookie in which he addressed the issues of both his innocence and his sincerity.

He wrote: “My detractors in the media and elsewhere have questioned my redemption. Their doubt is driven largely by my open apology (at to Black folks and others who might have been offended by the fact that I helped create the Crips youth gang in Los Angeles 34 years ago. My detractors argue that I could not be redeemed because I have not apologized to the family members of the victims that I was convicted of killing.

“But please allow me to clarify. I will never apologize for capital crimes that I did not commit—not even to save my life. And I did not commit the crimes for which I was sentenced to be executed by the State of California.

“Being a condemned prisoner, I am viewed among the least able to qualify as a promoter of redemption and of peace. But the most wretched among society can be redeemed, find peace and reach out to others to lift them up. Redemption cannot be faked or intellectualized. It must be subjective, experienced and shared. In the past, redemption was an alien concept to me. But from 1988 to 1994, while I lived in solitary confinement, I embarked on a transitional path toward redemption. I underwent years of education, soul-searching, edification, spiritual cultivation, and fighting to transcend my inner demons.

“Subsequently, the redeeming process for me symbolized the end of a bad beginning—and a new start.” (From The New Abolitionist, Aug. 2005, p. 2.)

Stanley Tookie Williams has been nominated several times for the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize for his work in support of street peace and in anti-gang efforts. He has written nine anti-gang and anti-violence books and created the Internet Project for Street Peace, which connects youth globally in support of that end.

That said, Tookie has a date with death:
Dec. 13, 2005!

What makes Tookie’s case doubly disturbing is that the state played fast and loose with jury selection by kicking off three potential Black jurors, resulting in a virtually all-white jury to decide both his guilt and whether he should live or die. (There were 10 Caucasians; one Filipino and one Latino.)

Is racial jury-rigging a “minor” thing?

Just recently, in Philadelphia, a man who had been on death row for over a decade for multiple murders had his retrial. His original conviction was tossed because of a violation of the Batson rule (which forbids the removal of Black jurors). A racially mixed jury acquitted him of all charges.

It can be said that Tookie didn’t receive a fair trial, by any standard. How can he then face death?

The death penalty has been losing steam for years, largely because of cases which were “won” by unfairness.

With the support of the people, that may be ending, as the fight for the life of Tookie begins!

-- 30 --

(c) 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Union labor donated


Clemency Now!

Call Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at:

Send a FAX to: 916-445-4633



NAACP press release

For immediate release
November 27, 2005


California Gov. Schwarzenegger is asked to grant clemency to former gang leader who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize

Bruce S. Gordon, President & CEO, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), said today that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger should spare the life of Stanley Tookie Williams, who is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on December 13. Williams, who maintains his innocence, has been nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize and four times for the Nobel Prize for Literature for his series of acclaimed children’s books.

Gordon said: “There is no doubt in my mind that Stanley Williams merits clemency. The NAACP asks Gov. Schwarzenegger to act with courage and exercise the power of his office to grant clemency to Stanley Williams.”

Gordon said the NAACP will lead a multi-city two-week crusade to convince Schwarzenegger that Williams should live to continue his work in helping young people make positive choices and avoid the gang life that he once lived. Williams, a co-founder of the Crips gang, has won international and national recognition for the 10 books he wrote urging youths to stay away from gangs.

In a series of rallies, prayer vigils and news conferences in California from San Diego to Sacramento, the NAACP will focus public attention on the Williams case. Schwarzenegger has agreed to meet Dec. 8 with Williams' lawyers, Los Angeles County prosecutors and others involved in the case to consider whether to grant clemency. He has refused to meet with the NAACP.

Gordon said: “I am convinced that our community is best served if Stan is alive and contributing to the guidance of our youth. He is a one-of-a-kind human asset who needs to exercise his unique ability to touch the lives of young people.”

On Saturday, Gordon met privately with Williams for two-and-a half hours at the San Quentin prison death house where he has lived since 1981. During the meeting, Gordon said Williams committed to working with the NAACP to reach young people who might be influenced to join gangs.

Gordon, who became president of the NAACP in August, said reaching out to young people is a key priority in his administration. “He is our new partner,” he said. “He’s our secret weapon in the fight to help young African Americans reject gangs. Williams will have a powerful impact not just in Los Angeles, not just in California, but throughout our nation.”

The NAACP has long opposed the death penalty and has called for a moratorium on executions until questions about the reliability and fairness of capital punishment have been answered and it is certain that the process does not discriminate. There are documented cases that show the death penalty has been applied differently depending on the race of the offender and the victim.

Gordon said that based upon the assessment of the NAACP legal staff; there is sufficient reason to question Williams’ guilt. “We believe that race impacted the trial that convicted Stan and sentenced him to death,” said Gordon. “However, at this point, the NAACP bases it’s support for clemency on the value of Stan’s life to the communities the organization represents. We want to save Stan’s life so he can save the lives of others.”

The NAACP supports the Petition for Executive Clemency submitted by William’s legal counsel on November 8, 2005. Included in the petition is a quote from the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist written in 1998:

“…the heart of executive clemency…is to grant clemency as a matter of grace, thus allowing the executive to consider a wide range of factors not comprehended by earlier judicial proceedings and sentencing determinations.”

Four Nobel laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have called on Schwarzenegger to grant clemency for Williams. "Through his work, gang truces have been mediated and long-standing wounds have been healed. Lives have been saved," the laureates said in a letter to the governor.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Stanley Williams merits clemency,” said Gordon.

Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its half-million adult and youth members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities, conducting voter mobilization and monitoring equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.


Contact: John C. White, NAACP Office of Communications, 410-580-5127

-- END --
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