Murder and Redemption

Credit Michelle Malkin for telling us to “keep the focus where it belongs:” not on Stanley “Tookie” Wilson, but his four victims, Albert Owens, Tsai-Shai Yang, Yen-I Yang and Ye-Chen Lin. Nonetheless, I don’t think “good riddance” is the only message here.

We can also comment on his quest for redemption. Because in the Torah’s view, the death penalty isn’t just about removing the murderer from society — it is indeed about redemption itself.

The creation of a justice system is one of the commandments incumbent upon all descendents of Noah. And murder is a death penalty offense under the Laws of Noah as well.

The governor’s rejection of clemency is extremely solid. It makes the case that with multiple eyewitnesses plus ballistics, the jury (and multiple court decisions since then) have declared him guilty of the crimes. While Williams was claiming “personal redemption” as the reason for clemency, he simultaneously protested his innocence. Says Arnold “Terminator” Schwarzenegger: “It is impossible to separate Williams’ claim of innocence from his claim of redemption.” How can he claim redemption while also insisting he is innocent of the crimes he once (according to witnesses) bragged about?

Beyond that, the Torah does not say that personal redemption is a reason to commute a death sentence. It is true that during his time on death row he may indeed have changed his ways, but that could be true for any murderer, and that isn’t supposed to change what the justice system does. The murderer, says the Torah, is supposed to regret what he did, and then with his death will come a spiritual cleansing.

The shortcoming of the governor’s statement is that it brushes off the young men who may have been moved to change before it was too late because of Williams’ writing — and instead points back to the evil he did before. It says “the continued pervasiveness of gang violence leads one to question the efficacy of Williams’ message.”

I think that’s unfair to Williams. The FBI can tell us how difficult it can be to stop a gang, and there’s no question his writings have moved people in the right direction. But his final lesson to those whom he can affect should have been: this is why you need to change now, before you kill someone.

According to CBS News, former Crips member Donald Archie said he would work to spread Williams’ anti-gang message. That would be a fitting epitaph for the good works he did from death row.

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