Death-row celebrity has direct link to this city's ills

December 10, 2005|By GREGORY KANE

Stanley "Tookie" Williams sits on California's death row awaiting his execution Tuesday. Does his plight have a connection with Baltimore?

Oh, you betcha.

Williams is a co-founder of the Crips gang. In 1981, Williams was found guilty of murdering Albert Owens during the robbery of a 7-Eleven in the Los Angeles area. Three other men joined Williams in the robbery. One testified against him at his trial.

In the same trial, Williams was found guilty of murdering Yen-I Yang, Tsai-Shai Chen and Yu-Chin Yang Lin in a motel robbery. All four murders occurred in 1979.

Since his imprisonment on death row, Williams has become a cause celebre among blacks in the entertainment world who don't know any better. How else can we explain rapper Snoop Dogg proudly proclaiming before television cameras that Williams is "our Martin Luther King"? That might hold up as the "Negro, please" moment of the 21st century.

Liberal Hollywood types have jumped on the Williams-is-a-hero bandwagon. There has been a movie about him. (Not one movie yet about his victims.) His supporters claim that because he has written a series of children's books advising youngsters not to get involved with gangs, Williams is now "redeemed" and worthy of clemency.

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger heard lawyers for Williams argue his clemency case Thursday. What Schwarzenegger should take into account when he considers clemency for Williams is how sincere "Tookie's" claims of "redemption" are. Judging from comments Williams made to CBS news correspondent Ed Bradley on a 2004 segment of 60 Minutes, the co-founder of the Crips is still a gangbanger.

The issue here is "debriefing." That's the term prison officials use for gang members who claim they've given up the life. Once they do, prison honchos demand that they tell everything they know about the criminal activities of their former cohorts.

Williams - Mr. Anti-Gang, Mr. "I've Been Redeemed" - has refused to be debriefed.

"I have to say that the word `debriefing' is a euphemistic term for snitching," Williams said. "And my convictions won't allow that."

So he still clings to the gang-banger's code of not snitching. That doesn't sound like "redemption" to me. That sounds like Williams has been conning a lot of people for a lot of years.

And it sounds like Williams' "don't be a snitch" convictions have reached the streets of Baltimore.

Remember our town's infamous Stop Snitching DVD? Those guys brandishing the guns, talking about the criminal life and what they would do to those "snitches" who cut deals with police and finger other criminals? Baltimore's frighteningly high homicide count can be directly traced to this tortured principle of "no snitching."

It's a principle Williams warmly embraces, one that has led to an entire cottage industry devoted to "stop snitching." There are not only the DVDs, but "stop snitching" T-shirts and caps.

Rap songs talk despairingly of "snitches" and proudly of criminals. Some magazines devoted to rap music do the same. Even lawyers arguing for Williams' clemency have gotten in on the "anti-snitch" craze.

Responding to prosecutors who said Williams' startling admission that snitching would violate his convictions proves he's not worthy of clemency, Williams' lawyers wrote in their brief that "the District Attorney also claims the absence of personal redemption because Stanley Williams will not compromise his personal convictions by submitting to `debriefing.' The District Attorney demands that Stanley Williams prove his personal redemption by assuming the role of `informant' which, in a free society, only the police and prosecutor treat as an act of honor."

Did y'all get that? According to Tookie's lawyers, Williams is the honorable one in this situation. Those same lawyers not very subtly implied that police beat false testimony out of one witness who testified against Williams and all but accused prosecutors of suborning perjury during his trial. They've questioned the integrity of everybody involved in the trial of Stanley "Tookie" Williams except Stanley "Tookie" Williams.

According to his lawyers, Williams is the only one who has told the truth about the four murders. Williams is the only one whose integrity is beyond reproach. Williams is the only one who has acted with honor.

Yes, and Santy Clause will indeed be coming to town in 15 days.

This is a case of the values of decent folks being turned upside down and the values of criminals being shoved in their place. If Williams is indeed "redeemed," then it's not a matter of "snitching." It's a matter of confessing. As in confessing sins.

There will be no confessions from Williams - just two terse sentences about his convictions against snitching that have undone all the words in his anti-gang books and cast doubt on his claims of redemption. What Williams is really teaching the youth of America is that it's honorable to dummy up when they have knowledge of a crime.

If he's executed, is that really the legacy Williams wants to take to his grave?

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