Debra J. Saunders

Worst of all, while the story described the hardships Tookie must endure in prison, there is no mention of the demons and tragic loss endured by the families of his victims. The Yangs' son, Robert, was in another room when the shootings occurred. Tookie's prosecutor, the now-retired Robert Martin, noted: "I remember Robert Yang was highly criticized by his family members for not doing something. That was very unfair."

I talked to Owens' daughter, Becki, over the phone. Becki was 8, her sister was 5, when Albert Owens died. He had been saving up money to bring his children to California to live with them and was six months from his goal.

His death, Becki believes, kept the girls with their mother and the men who went in and out of her life. As a result of her childhood, Becki said, "men were not really trusted."

Asked what she thought of Tookie groupies, Becki answered, "I would like to have them think about how, if it had been their father ripped from them, if every hope they had ever had was taken away from them in a split-second, where they would stand."

And: "What I really would like people to know is that I don't hate the man. I hate the fact that he's not being held accountable for his own actions."

Wes McBride, president of the California Association for Gang Investigators, observed that if Tookie won his appeals, he would be set free. As for Tookie's apology (for crimes that didn't put him in prison), McBride said, "I really don't doubt that he's sorry that he's where he's at."

The New York Times asked: "Is character fixed or mutable? Can a person who is capable of tremendous harm also be capable of tremendous good?"

I believe even violent people can change. The question is: Has Tookie changed?

Or how about: Why can't death-penalty opponents find a killer who has expressed remorse for his known crimes to nominate for the Nobel Peace Prize?

Better yet: Does having your name on a book jacket remove the stain of snuffing out the lives of four innocent people?

Debra J. Saunders

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