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Tookie Is Topic #1 In Black Press

by JR Valrey

Schwarzenegger Could Do Right By "Tookie" Williams

(PNS) SAN FRANCISCO -- As the Dec. 13, 2005, date for the execution of death row prisoner Stanley "Tookie" Williams creeps closer, mainstream media nationwide have begun to take a look at what has been one of the most widely reported and debated stories in black media for the last two months.

Most, but not all, commentary in African American publications has favored granting clemency to Tookie, a five-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and a co-founder of the notorious Crips street gang.

Olu Alemoru of the Los Angles Wave Newspapers published an article titled, "Pressure Builds on Clemency for Williams" on Nov. 16.

Alemoru focused on the particular circumstances of the case that sent Tookie to death row, noting a familiar formula that has doomed countless black men in America: an all-white jury, inconsistent or contradictory eye-witness testimony and jail-house snitches.

"He was convicted by an all-white jury for the murders of four people in 1979 during two separate robberies. None of the physical evidence found at the crime scenes could be linked to Williams. A witness description of a suspect seen leaving one of the scenes did not fit Williams either," Alemoru wrote.

Alemoru also questioned the character, tolerance and tactics of the prosecutor who convicted Tookie. Prosecutor Robert Martin "not only successfully challenged all the African Americans in the jury pool, but was said to have used inflammatory, 'racist' language," Alemoru wrote.

"In his closing argument," Alemoru wrote, "Martin likened Williams to a Bengal tiger in the zoo and said that 'in his environment,' he would behave like the tiger in its natural habitat. The state Supreme Court later censured Martin twice for his racist practices. Death sentences he won in two other cases were overturned because of racism."

Many of William's supporters in the black community felt the execution date, which is also the birthday of Jaime Foxx, the Oscar-winner who played Tookie in a movie about the Crip leader's life called "Redemption" and has led the campaign to save his life, was a slap in the face to the actor and the condemned man's supporters.

Kwan Booth, in a Nov. 23 article in the Oakland Post titled "Thousands Stand for Tookie," quotes Derek Williams of Berkeley as saying, "It's just so they can prove that they have some kind of power over us."

Booth also outlined the case for clemency that the Governor will consider during the week before Williams' execution.

"The basis of the petition is Stanley Williams' personal redemption," wrote Booth. It "is the hope given to others by his message of education, self-discipline, purpose and peace, and the positive impact his message will continue to have if the governor spares his life by granting clemency."

Not all commentators in the African-American press want Tookie to live. Joseph C. Phillips, on, decried civil rights leaders and Hollywood stars, who use the Williams case to turn "a murderer into a hero." Phillips zeroed in on the murder victims.

"Williams ... was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1979 slayings of Albert Owens, Yen-I Yang, his wife, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, and their daughter, Yu-Chin Yang Lin," wrote Phillips. "Snoop, Mike Farrell, Danny Glover, Jamie Foxx and the other celebrity voices now raised in support of Williams offer a clear picture of the distorted moral vision of the Hollywood left. It is a vision that finds virtue contemptible and props up homicidal maniacs who write bad children's books as role models for the masses."

Phillips also takes aim at Tookie's books -- his clemency calling card -- disputing their effectiveness and popularity.

"The portrayal of Williams as some Pied Piper of Peace for the gang community also holds very little water," he writes. "A quick review of Book Scan shows the Tookie series of books have hardly been blockbusters. No one is reading his books, least of all his two sons, one of whom is serving time in San Quentin. The other was just arrested on charges of aggravated rape. Poor book sales are not reason to send someone to the execution chamber, but then Williams was not convicted of lackluster book sales. He was found guilty of shooting four innocent people in cold blood, a fact his supporters continue to forget."

Despite Phillips' view, the overwhelming volume of coverage of the Tookie Williams case in the black press speaks to solid community support for clemency.

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Albion Monitor December 5, 2005 (

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