Death notices

An editorial, “Without mercy” in today’s SF Chronicle states, “GOV. ARNOLD Schwarzenegger once characterized his conflicted feelings about the death penalty as a duel between his ‘Austrian brain and the American brain.’ He recalled that capital punishment was an ‘absolute no-no’ in his native Austria.”

The writer concludes, “Perhaps there was a time when Schwarzenegger might have at least delayed the death of Stanley Tookie Williams until the California Assembly could consider the merits of AB1121, which would impose a moratorium on capital punishment while a commission assesses whether its application in this state is ‘fair, just and accurate.'”

MTV reports, “In the end, the execution process took longer than usual as technicians struggled for more than 10 minutes to find a vein in Williams’ muscular left arm. As the team searched, Williams visibly winced and lifted his head off the gurney several times and, according to the Times, at once appeared to say, ‘Still can’t find it?’ Witnesses said his death from the lethal injection took close to 20 minutes.”

Williams’ friend Barbara… “Becnel and two other supporters of Williams turned toward the media in the witness room and yelled in unison, “The state of California just killed an innocent man!”

“Mr. Williams has maintained his innocence since the day he was arrested,” Attorney Verna Wefald wrote in the petition filed to California’s top court on Saturday. “Given that the state’s case rests on the testimony of criminal informants who had an incentive to lie, not only to obtain benefits, but to hide the truth of their involvement in these crimes, it is imperative that discovery be granted at this critical stage of Mr. Williams’ case.”

The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), the national NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) and several other civil rights groups filed an amicus (Friend of the Court) brief urging the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to consider racist injustices in jury selection during Tookie’s 1981 trial:

“His trial was based on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of several witnesses, all of whom were facing a range of felony charges, including fraud, rape, murder and mutilation. Even the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals stated in a September 10, 2002, ruling that the witnesses in Stan’s case had ‘less-than-clean backgrounds and incentives to lie in order to obtain leniency from the state in either charging or sentencing.'”

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected Tookie’s appeal to investigate the racism and discrimination at the heart of his case, as well as Tookie’s innocence issues. One issue highlighted the fact that the prosecutor in Tookie’s original case removed three African-American jurors from the jury. During Stan’s trial, this prosecutor made racially-coded remarks during his closing argument, comparing Stan during the trial to a Bengal tiger in the zoo and stating that a black community – South Central Los Angeles – was equivalent to the natural “habitat” of a Bengal Tiger.

Now upheld by the United States Supreme Court, this ruling will establish as “case law” for the nation the right for prosecutors to exclude jurors on the basis of race and to denigrate minority defendants in front of all-white juries.

The ruling is a frontal attack on the civil rights of all Americans.

The California State Supreme Court had twice censured this prosecutor for equally discriminatory behavior. Indeed, a member of the California Supreme Court at that time made the following statement about that prosecutor :

…I believe that we must place the ultimate blame on its real source – the prosecutor. It was he who unconstitutionally struck Black prospective jurors. The record compels this conclusion and permits none other… This prosecutor knew that such conduct was altogether improper. The trial court told him as much. And so did we… This court attempted to teach this same prosecutor that invidious discrimination was unacceptable when we reversed a judgment of death because of similar improper conduct on his part. He failed – or refused – to learn his lesson. The result is another reversal – and another costly burden on the administration of justice.

Robert G. says, “Today, the Times ran lengthy obits of Eugene McCarthy and Richard Pryor on opposing pages and one neat bit of symmetry was found in their definitions of truth that has stayed in my thoughts throughout the day.”

McCarthy: “slowed his baritone for a plain definition of patriotism: ‘To serve one’s country not in submission but to serve it in truth.'”

Pryor: “a lie is profanity,” he explained. “A lie is the worst thing in the world. Art is the ability to tell the truth, especially about oneself.”

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