Readers of Sunday's New York Times Magazine were treated this week to a tidy puff piece about Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the San Quentin inmate now on Death Row for killing four strangers in two 1979 robberies.
Paging through the piece, readers learned that Tookie, a co-founder of the Crips street gang, co-wrote a series of books that warn children to stay away from gangs and crime, and that explain the horrors of prison life. They also read that a decision handed down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit suggested that Tookie might be a worthy candidate for clemency because of his "laudable efforts opposing gang violence"; that Tookie was thrice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize; that there is an upcoming TV production on Williams' "tale of heroic transformation" -- but that Tookie won't see it because "he has no access to cable TV."
Author Kimberley Sevcik described how Williams "walks slowly, magisterially, his broad chest thrust forward, his nose tilted ever so slightly upward. ... His mauve wire-rimmed glasses give him a scholarly air. But it's his voice that surprises me: not quite gentle, but disarmingly soft."
The story does report that Tookie and friends robbed a 7-Eleven store, and that "court records describe" how Tookie shot 26-year-old clerk Albert Owens in the back twice as Owens was lying face-down on the floor. Two weeks later, during a motel robbery, Tookie shot dead proprietors Yen-I Yang and Tsai-Shai Yang, as well as their daughter, Ye Chen Lin. Sevcik also reported that Tookie denies killing these four innocent people.
Here's what the New York Times story didn't tell you.
The story failed to mention that physical evidence tied Tookie to the crimes. Or that Tookie's many appeals and evidentiary hearings failed to overturn the guilty verdict or sentence.
The story does not mention that Tookie's latest appeal argued not that he's innocent -- but that he suffered from organic brain damage, which made him mentally incompetent, either during trial or when he committed the crimes.
Hmmmm. Williams' defense argues he suffered organic brain damage -- and yet The New York Times reported he reads up on black history, philosophy and world religion, and co-wrote a series of books.
The headline asked, "Has Stanley Williams Left the Gang?" San Quentin spokesman Vernell Crittendon believes that if Tookie had left the Crips, he would have helped authorities dismantle the gang to stop terror, drug blight and drive-by shootings in the black community.