America is dead wrong to kill its own

Where are the moral values in the death chamber? How was justice served?

Adri Mehra

Last December when I hit these keys of futility ” composing powerless words ” a man sat in his cell near San Quentin State Prison in California, an advocate for peace, a reformed gang leader, possibly innocent of his capital crimes, having refused his last meal, and waited to die. I showered twice that day and I still felt unclean. Greasy, queasy, icky, sullied. I’ve found out what it was. It’s my American skin.

What is my country doing?

On that afternoon last December, California “Governator” Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to postpone the midnight execution of former Crips gang leader Stanley “Tookie” Williams, an African-American man sentenced to death in 1981 for four Los Angeles gangland murders that occurred two years before.

The part that should give all of us pause is not that Williams always insisted he was innocent, but the fact that he was not alone in this claim. In his attorneys’ eleventh-hour case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, a new witness came forward and testified under oath that a fellow cellmate in the county jail was illegally given documents by the sheriff’s department to testify against Williams and to “help frame defendants for crimes” in exchange for reduced or dropped charges against the cellmate, the witness said.

Positioned above the fray in their ivory towers, right-wing talking heads clamored for Williams’ death. My question to these belligerents is: How can you be “pro-life” and still sleep well at night as your supposedly representative government is forcing potassium chloride into the veins of its constituents?

Does that late-night sushi snack taste that much better knowing that your taxes fund an hourlong death march that “humanely” poisons, paralyzes and destroys the vital organs of fellow Americans? Listen, no matter what you believe, our government’s responsibility is to protect and serve its citizens, not kill them.

In a frighteningly numb statement to the press, Schwarzenegger actually said that Williams “should pay with his life.”

Earth to Arnold: This is not “Predator 3.” This is not a set. There is no second take, no stunt double. This rogue sense of vigilante justice looks good on celluloid, but in real life its brutality is final, unnatural and dead wrong. I know you really want to be that “last action hero” from your lame-ass movie of the same name, but if your giant pectorals contain no mercy or humanity, at least have some respect for those of whom you are about to end.

Since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976, the United States has killed more than 1,000 of its own people in exchange for some twisted Wild West-style nostalgia masquerading as a sense of relief or this nebulous thing we like to call justice.

Some call the death penalty justice. I call it what it is: unmitigated murder, in blood at least as cold as that of the crimes Stanley Williams had been accused of. And the fresh murder of a fifth person will not bring the other four back.Behind bars, Williams became perhaps the nation’s most outspoken inside crusader against gang violence. He wrote several children’s books with anti-gang messages and only asked for clemency to continue his work preventing young people from making the choices he did, which led to a life of crime and a death sentence.

In prison, he no longer was a threat to anyone. In fact, he was at times a uniquely credible positive force, channeling his considerable time and energy toward dissuading vulnerable youngsters from making terrible life decisions. It comes down to that even if Williams were guilty of those murders, the culpability would be his alone, and between him and his god, as they say. When he was executed, the blood is on all of our hands.

Who among us wants to answer for this man’s death?

Adri Mehra welcomes comments at [email protected]