Kathleen Parker

At this point, most normal people are entertaining uncivilized thoughts about how best to dispose of such an person. Yet Williams' defenders insist he is reformed and point to children's books he has written in prison urging kids to stay away from gangs. They also point to his 1997 statement apologizing for his role in glamorizing the gang life, though he never apologized for his crimes.

The usual suspects have mobilized in his behalf, including Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Danny Glover, Jesse Jackson, Bianca Jagger, Snoop Dogg (a fellow former Crip), Anjelica Huston, Desmond Tutu, '60s radical Tom Hayden and Mario Cuomo, to name a few.

Perhaps some of these celebrities share the same concerns I've expressed. But others, including an activist visiting California schools in recent days to enlist children in a "Save Tookie" campaign, make it difficult to steady one's hands and stick to one's convictions.

Stefanie Faucher, projects director for the grassroots group Death Penalty Focus, made one of her stops several days ago at an "alternative" Oakland high school, where she told students there was little evidence to convict Williams, despite what all those courts and judges had to say.

The class discussion rambled around a bit, making pit stops to bash President George W. Bush and criticize California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's language skills, before Faucher left with 29 letters petitioning the governor for clemency.

To those who skipped Snoop Dogg's "Save Tookie" rally, it seems clear that the courts have done their job and that Williams is guilty. But it is also abundantly clear that his death - and the dramas surrounding such executions - grant celebrity status to the least deserving among us.

Our first principle should be never to kill an innocent person, and thus err on the side of life. As recompense for delaying the dark gratification of revenge, we liberate ourselves from involuntary servitude as audience to those for whom Death Row has become a stage.

Finally, killers such as Tookie Williams, condemned to life without parole, vanish into the hell of obscurity where they belong.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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