Tookie — goodbye and good riddance

What kind of cutesie name is Tookie anyway — for a murderer? Why have the media over the last few days tried to make us feel sorry for this creep? The US government sentenced him to death but then gave him 24 extra years of life before carrying out the sentence — which is 24 more years than he gave his victims.

Probably 24 years of appeals + keeping him alive cost us taxpayers millions. If the death penalty is supposed to serve as a deterrent — or if it supposed to serve the ends of justice — either way, a 24-year delay in carrying out the sentence renders it useless.

Yesterday I heard a self-professed Christian on a talk radio show. He complained that the host of the show was a quote “hypocrite” because he was pro-life yet pro-death penalty. The caller also said that executing murderers would be “playing G-d.” When I hear Christians talking like that I want to ask them, “Mister, have you ever read the Bible? ”

Really, would he say the Bible is hypocritical? After all, the Bible says “Thou shalt not murder” and then goes on to say that if someone DOES commit murder, the penalty is death. Boy, G-d is so inscrutable.

I am not even going to bother answering the people who have trouble seeing the difference between murder and justice. They are probably the same people who can’t tell the difference between flying airplanes into the World Trade Center and invading Iraq. Who can’t tell the difference between fighting in the Nazi army and fighting in the US army — after all, war is war, bad bad bad, they love PEACE. Who can hardly tell the difference between criminals and police, and who assume that most police are racists and bigots while also assuming that most accused criminals are really innocent.

Bottom line, the Torah considers the death penalty to be the just punishment for murder. Certainly, every safeguard possible should be in place to ensure that an innocent person is not falsely accused, even if that means the guilty sometimes go unpunished — executing the wrong person is a terrible travesty of justice. But to claim that somehow the death penalty is not “just” is simply not consistent with the Torah’s teachings.

As for the argument that if you don’ t think innocent babies in their mothers’ wombs should be killed for their mothers’ convenience, then you should not want to execute convicted murderers either — what can I say? I can’t make any sense out of that position at all. Where is the moral equivalence between an innocent baby and a convicted killer?

Oh yeah, it’s those people who can’t tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys, jihadis and American soldiers, criminals and police. But how come THEY are so inconsistent? They think we pro-lifers should be pro-life for murderers, too. Why then aren’t THEY pro-death for criminals as well as for fetuses?

The Talmud says it: “Those who are merciful when they should be cruel will be cruel when they should be merciful.”

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19 comments to Tookie — goodbye and good riddance

  • Gershon Seif

    Couldn’t agree more. I can hear your father zt”l’s strong opinions coming through in that piece as clearly as ever. Very well articulated. Looking forward to seeing the liberal minded responses.

  • shmuel

    While in theory I agree with you, recently in Illinois there were a number of death row cases that were overturned due to DNA evidence etc. I think that in the abscence of witness to the act life with no possibility of parole, served in solitary confinement may be more appropriate.

  • Gil Student

    Toby, You don’t believe in teshuvah? OK, I’m going to have to post about the mahlokes regarding a beis din punishing someone who does teshuvah. But certainly when punishing a repentant criminal, “good riddance” is not the proper attitude. We trust that Hashem treats the repentant criminal with the appropriate mercy.

  • Lumpy Rutherford

    Good riddance? Isn’t that attitude a bit callous? An execution is meant to be part of the atonement process for an offender. The offender confesses, does teshuva and his death serves as an atonement for his offense. Dancing on his grave isn’t part of the equation.

  • Toby Katz

    Shmuel wrote:

    “While in theory I agree with you, recently in Illinois there were a number of death row cases that were overturned due to DNA evidence etc. I think that in the abscence of witness to the act life with no possibility of parole, served in solitary confinement may be more appropriate.”

    In Tookie’s case there WERE eyewitnesses — his partner in crime testified against him. No one suggested he was innocent — there was overwhelming evidence of his guilt — although he himself continued to deny it. But his defenders claimed that he had reformed, not that he was innocent.

    As for the recent cases that were overturned due to DNA evidence, such advances in technology make me more confident than ever that the death penalty will be carried out only when there is absolutely no shadow of a doubt about the guilt of the accused.

    In the case of people in the past who were executed for crimes they did not commit — when someone testifies falsely in a capital case, or fabricates evidence, that person is himself guilty of murder. That’s no different than hiring a hit man. But it doesn’t mean that capital punishment is not an appropriate punishment.

    Furthermore, you have to factor — against the tiny risk of executing the wrong man — the risk of allowing killers to find more victims. How many killers serving life sentences managed to murder fellow prisoners, or prison guards, while in custody? And how many killers serving “life sentences” ended up gaining parole — only to kill again?

    Add up the victims in such cases and you will see that the number of people who died because the death penalty was NOT used outnumbers the number of innocent people who were wrongfully executed by a factor of more than a thousand to one. NOT having (or not using) the death penalty results in a horrendous number of innocent deaths.

    In any case, there is no question whatsoever of Tookie’s guilt.

    ===================
    Gil Student wrote:

    “Toby, You don’t believe in teshuvah? OK, I’m going to have to post about the mahlokes regarding a beis din punishing someone who does teshuvah. But certainly when punishing a repentant criminal, “good riddance” is not the proper attitude. We trust that Hashem treats the repentant criminal with the appropriate mercy.”

    I am not aware of a concept in halacha that the death penalty is revoked when the criminal does teshuva. Please do post about that, I’d like to see it. As for Tookie, there is no question of teshuva here. He went to his death denying his guilt — despite overwhelming evidence and eyewitness testimony — so obviously, he never expressed remorse for the cold-blooded murders he committed.

    I don’t really blame him for continuing to deny his guilt. Heck, his stone-walling got him an extra 24 years of life, and he had every reason to hope it would get him a further stay of execution. But teshuva? None.

    As for the children’s books he wrote — which supposedly made him a redeemed character — they were published by a publishing company that has the same address as Barbara Becnel — a fanatic leftist supporter of Tookie’s. The address is her private house. Her “publishing company” never published anything else. see

    http://www.knowgangs.com/blog/tookie3.htm

    In one of his books he wrote a dedication to a list of far-left fringe characters, including other convicted murderers like himself as well as known anti-American, anti-Semitic fascist-Marxists — e.g., Angela Davis.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Oral Torah seems to limit capital punishment to the point where it would almost never happen. IIRC, capital punishment requires two witnesses with foreknowledge of the crime who warned the would be murderer and to whom that would be murderer replied he or she will do it anyway.

    Does this mean that the capital punishment written in the Torah is written more to emphasize the evil of murder than as practical Halacha? Are Noahide courts empowered to execute murderers more than Jewish courts? Or am I just showing off my vast ignorance, and I can look forward to reading responses that will explain my mistakes?

    Thanks,
    Ori

  • Harry Maryles

    I can’t say I’m not happy to se this worthless piece of slime gone. Yes, I said worthless. His so called children’s books are nothing more than a cynical attempt to save his own life. He knows he’s guilty. In fact it would be no surprise to me if he killed other people as well. Only this time he was caught.

    But… if we are to apply Halacha here and if this fellow were Jewish, then he would not have received the death penalty. If you want to use the Torah standard, then circumstantial evidence, no matter how strong is never enough to implement the death penalty. And it was circumstantial evidence that convicted him. There were no witnesses to the actual murder. And there was no Halachicly required warning about the Misas Bes Din that he would get for committing the crime.

    So, by Halachic standards he should not have been executed. The fact that the Torah mandates capital punishment of murderers is far too often used to justify an executtion on less than Halachic grounds.

    But, I’m still glad he’s dead.

  • dovbear

    Why have the media over the last few days tried to make us feel sorry for this creep??

    Where did this happen?

    I am getting a little tired of conservatives taking unsubstantiated shots at the media. It’s flat out dishonest to say that the media tried to make us feel sorry for Tookie Williams. It is also flat out dishonest to conflate the death penalty with abortion. People who are pro-choice do not believe that a fetus is a life. You’re free to disagree, but it’s foolish and unfair to call them hypocrites when they aren’t using the same defintion for life that you are.

  • Ori Pomerantz

    Harry Maryles,

    Does the Torah specify a standard for a non Jewish court? As far as I can see, at most it specifies that one exists, Genesis 9:6, ” ו שפך דם האדם, באדם דמו ישפך: כי בצלם אלהים, עשה את-האדם.” – “He who spills the blood of man among men, his blood shall be spilled, for in the image of G-d did he make man.”

  • Harry Maryles

    My understanding of the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach pertaining to setting up a court system includes setting their own parameters of Justice, as long as it is indeed just. The standard of the US judicial system is well within such parameters. So the execution of Mr. Williams was just.

  • Sholom Simon

    Toby writes: “Yesterday I heard a self-professed Christian on a talk radio show. He complained that the host of the show was a quote “hypocrite” because he was pro-life yet pro-death penalty. The caller also said that executing murderers would be “playing G-d.” When I hear Christians talking like that I want to ask them, “Mister, have you ever read the Bible? ””

    Funny thing how sometimes the bloggers hear quote, approvingly, statements by clergy of other religions. Apparently that’s only if you agree.

    Yes, Toby, the Pope was against this execution.

    And, yes, Toby, I’ll bet he’s read the Bible.

  • Charles B. Hall, PhD

    ‘quote, approvingly, statements by clergy of other religions’

    Rov Soloveitchik cautioned us 40 years ago against things like this. If we can tell Catholics what they should believe (and the Catholic Church does in fact oppose both abortion and the death penalty), it will not be long before they will be telling us what we should believe. Christians can work out their intra-religious disputes without our interference.

    ‘The standard of the US judicial system is well within such parameters.’

    I don’t think anyone can argue that the standard of the US judicial system is even close to the torah standard. People go to prison for property crimes. Self incriminating statements and circumstantial evidence are admissible, as are statements by witnesses known to lack credibility. One can be executed based on testimony of zero eyewitnesses. And it is clear that better off defendants can afford better lawyers and are more likely to receive less — or no — punishment. Yes, non-Jewish societies don’t have to follow torah principles in their legal systems but we should not rejoice when they are far from it.

    The killings for which Williams was convicted were brutal and senseless. The robberies netted him and his friends just a few hundred dollars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Williams has a chilling account. But I still can’t cheer when he is killed in the name of justice. It shows how far our society is from the ideal. Regardless of his lack of remorse for the four people he is convicted of killing, I am happy that he survived long enough to do a little good work, which hopefully will prevent at least a few people from turning out the way he did — or will convince a few people to do tshuvah before they take someone else’s life.

  • Aaron

    Why have the media over the last few days tried to make us feel sorry for this creep??
    Where did this happen?
    I am getting a little tired of conservatives taking unsubstantiated shots at the media.

    Actually, most of the internet and radio coverage of the “Tookie” case repeatedly emphasized the children’s books he wrote, and the claims that he had repented while in prison and wanted to keep children away from gangs. The general outlines of his crime, much less the details and names of the victims, were far less emphasized than the children’s books.

  • Stephen B. Rozen

    Toby, I support the death penalty as much as the next man — but the idea of putting someone to death for their crimes isn’t so that we don’t spend money on keeping him in prison — it’s because we believe that person doesn’t have a place among the living, or in society.

    I certainly do believe that we need to afford those on death row all the appeals necessary to really prove that they are guilty (that is, as a by-product of the appeals; obviously if they are proven, during those appeals, to be innocent — then they’ve served their purpose).

    Furthermore, Shmuel wrote about the evidence needed to convict and I will only refer you to my comments to Rabbi Adlerstein’s article of today. The evidence needed to convict in a capital case should be no greater than that needed for any “lesser” crime. For more on this, see my comments in the other article.

  • Rishona

    We live in an unfortunate time where people want to find a label; and then tailor their thinking and actions to fit “that label”. That Christian on that show has been conditioned that killing=bad. That is a sad fact of Christianity (charismatic leaders and their “flocks” that follow). Now if Tookie would have come out and murdered a close family member of this particular Christian, I’m pretty sure he would change his tune. The same with political alligiances (I apologize for my spelling, it’s atrocious I know!); I myself am a registered Democrat; but it drives me up the wall to hear some of these Democratic politicians bad-mouth any attempt to institute the most basic of moral codes and cry “seperation of church & state!”. This same politicians where go to church services on the election circuit to butter up the worshippers there because they know very well the type of influence support of a relgious group can impart and they also know that religious people will hit the polls more reliably than their secular counterparts.

  • Alex Griss

    ‘If we can tell Catholics what they should believe (and the Catholic Church does in fact oppose both abortion and the death penalty), it will not be long before they will be telling us what we should believe,

    I believe the important question is whether issuing a public statement of support would be acceptable if the killing was indeed found to be unjust?

    The Catholic Church does not oppose capital punishment per se, but Capital punishment in the U.S. is carried out more as social vengeance than to deliver justice and this is why the Pope (or other just men) will speak up against it.

    Now, perhaps you can abstain from telling others what they should believe or not believe, but if a Rabbi is consulted to explain Torah teaching, on the particular matter, should he refrain from issuing a statement for fear of creating frictions with Catholics and others?

    If the killing of this murderer was just then it was long overdue. (Whether the time and fashion of the killing is just is another matter).

    But if one is not certain as to the justice in the killing of a man, would it not be better to refrain from speaking about it altogether, unless one speaks to stop another from violating the mitsva for which the first fellow is supposed to be condemned for?

    Just a thought…

  • bvw

    Of course it’s a terrible waste that Tookie died, yet he wasted the lives of those he slaughtered. When did he die? Did he die when his heart hardened enough to slaughter in cold blood and laughter, or last week, unrepentant and lying in denial? How many posters here have to deal with the bloody fruit of one his trees — the murderous brutal gang he helped found, or the bleak barren branches of memory left to those whose loved ones he slaughtered?

    What is the Law of the Land? That some rain of mercy begged out of teshuvah waters his pretended “good works”? When in every city and near-suburb today Tookie’s seeds flower in a cycle of brutality and murder?

    Look at his arms, at his biceps! They told a truer tale then that which some perverted mercy attempted.

    And those mighty arms did not save him.

  • JCScott

    Gil Student wrote, “You don’t believe in teshuvah? … [C]ertainly when punishing a repentant criminal, “good riddance” is not the proper attitude. We trust that Hashem treats the repentant criminal with the appropriate mercy.”

    One fundamental aspect of t’shuvah is admission of guilt. Judge, jury, and twenty-four years of appeals all agreed that Mr. Willams commited the murders he was accused of, yet he went to the execution chamber without ever accepting guilt for his crime. There was no redemption, no repentance, and no grounds for clemency.

    G-d may yet have mercy on his soul; we on Earth had no reason do so.

  • Charles B. Hall

    ‘What kind of cutesie name is Tookie anyway—for a murderer?’

    It was his given middle name, not a cutesy nickname. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Williams.
    There is no reason to poke fun at someone’s name.