Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Tookie... and Clarey...

Those in a prison built by others....

Tookie Williams dies tonight. I used to be pro death penalty but over the years I've changed my mind. Crim law espouses two reasons for it. One is Deterrance. But statistics prove it doesnt work. The other is redemption. Eye for an eye. But is it? The victim of murder did not get to say goodbye to his family, have the world over plead for his life, and have a last meal before he went... where is the eye for an eye? The death penalty is also more expensive then housing an inmate for life. What troubles me most is that people on death row have been found innocent. Tookie denies his charges too. What about the good he's done? Surely people can change. I believe people should pay for what they've done... but I'd much rather leave it to God to judge for verily He is the most just. This doesnt mean I think all criminals who say they're sorry should be let go.... but I do believe in rehabilitation. It's a heated topic and I don't believe there's a right or wrong view... mostly shades of gray..... but personally, a death penalty system that kills off many guilty but once in a blue moon someone innocent.... I just can't endorse it.

And those who build it themselves...


Bill Clarey, 24, a young, successful staffer for the Daily Show, took his life over the weekend. Some like Tookie leave the world unwillingly... and some are in so much pain they choose to end their life all too soon. I can't imagine what went through Clarey's mind. People say suicide is the ultimate act of selflishness but I think its the act of someone with terminal depression. Just because depression isn't one of the physically manifesting illnesses... it doesnt make the illness less real. People who are depressed often think they're just pessimistic.. or weak.. or ungrateful for the good in their life. Science proves depression is more than just an attitude adjustment issue. A friend in college tried to kill herself... life was ripe with possibilities for her but she couldn't see it... I remember calling 911 and sitting by her bed after they pumped her stomach... she was in denial about her depression up to that point.... and then she got help.. Now she's doing a PhD in an ivy league school, engaged to a great guy and she's what she never was before... she's happy. Just like any other illness depression needs to be addressed by a professional. I hope that if anyone feels depression such as Clarey must have felt that they will seek help. It's not worth it to choose to live with a shadow on your heart.... As the beloved Jalaluddin Rumi said: "Why do you stay in prison when the door is wide open?"

32 comments:

Jane said...

I too used to be pro-death penalty but have changed my mind as I've gotten older. People who've committed crimes need to be punished and kept away from the rest of society, yes. But execution...I guess all I can say is that when I look into my heart I know it isn't right. That may not mean much in the world or how it is run but it's how I feel.

mezba said...

I support the death penalty in principle. There are crimes that are so heinous that only the ultimate punishment is the deterrant. All major religions support it. Having said that, the justice system must be as fair and fool proof as possible and the evidence must prove the guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Sadly, in the US, and wherever they use trial by jury of peers, often this is not the case. In my opinion trial by jury of peers is inherently faulty, as jurors are ordinary people that can be swayed by the magic of a good lawyer's words. Trial by a panel of three impartial judges who are trained in the law and therefore can cut the crap out of the lawyer's words is better. I think in cases of death penalty DNA evidence has to be absolute. This is easier in sexual assault cases (which I believe SHOULD have a death penalty, often rape is worse than murder).

momyblogR said...

Oh my goodness, more to ponder. I have spent a lot of time on the fence over this subject. My angry mode, is always in full support of the death penalty. Then, I listen to reason and I'm back on the fence. Ugh! I think you said it perfectly. The views are neither wrong or right, just many shades of gray.

Thanks for my thought subject of the week. :)

Nabeel said...

hope u've seen the movie, "The Life of David Gale"

Ali said...

It's a small price you pay for living in the most modern, developed, and understanding country in the entire world. I hope you take your skills in the legal framework of this country and promote change.

Raheel said...

death penalty is not the ultimate solution, I agree!!

so much happening on your blog, now that I am free with my exams, I can enjoy it yaay!!

ASH said...

I believe that the death penalty is wrong. But I also believe that the death penalty can be used for especially heinous crimes. What I object to is people sitting on death row for 25 years like "Tookie", he's been there for a quarter century....why execute him now? What ever happened to speedy justice.

My sympathies in this particular execution are conflicted. As the head of a major crime gang in LA, he had to know of many murders if not participate in them. Despite his redemption he refused to admit he killed those 4 people....even though there was over-whelming evidence that he committed them (including video tape and fingerprint evidence). That gives me pause.

But at the end of the day, it is revenge and I don't agree with that. It will not bring closure to victim's families.

I agree with mezba, rape is a horrible crime and should be punished much more severely than it already is....although I'm not sure I'm ready to make that capital punishment.

mystic-soul said...

If someone kill my loved one I will probably inclined to kill that person (emotional reaction) but on society level (where logic need to rule over heart) and where chance of getting innocent executed remains possible (as we are seeing more and more with DNA evidences now) - I think execution is a very primitive form of justice as many minds may offer benefits despite in life prison and many many murders happen due to emotional rage at one given moment and those people may turn around as very contributory people to society.

Anonymous Assclown said...

Redemption you say? Hmmm, did he apologize to the families of the people he killed? Did he ever show remorse for the murders?
Death penalty or no death penalty, there was no redemption in Stanley Williams.

Aisha said...

Jane ultimately my change happened like yours... due to sonme personal experiences as wlel and then just listeninhg to myself and how I felt about it.

Ash: I'd say that 25 yr wait is the true punishment that is cruel.

Nabeel, yes I did... The Hurricane is good too.

Mystic I agree 100% with what you said. People can change although ofcourse the family of the victims don't care about that..understandably so.. that's why its such a complicated issue...

GSJ: Ofcourse! No bash on the US... looking at the Australian riots and the situation in Europe I am certainly blessed to be here.... but we must never be content with status quo we must always strive to improve the world we live in.

Raheel welcome back! I hope exams were good!!

Mommyblogr. I'm just like you, sort of on the fence but leaning more against than for...

Mezba you know you raise a topic that's very complicated about jury v. judge. I used to think that too... that judge better. But its also scary bc they are very political people and they may make decisions based on their politics and not what they truly feel is right. It's an entire post discussin in itself:) But yo'ure right they're not very impartial... in Torts class we learn the Plaintiff never wants to go to a jury trial b/c they usually lose if they're a big comopany even if legally they were right. Does Canada have jury trial?

Shabina said...

yeah, i think the u.s. criminal justice system has too many flaws to apply the death penalty fairly (just look at the demographics of the criminals)

fix that, and *maybe* then i'd reconsider the dp...btw, the Qur'an sanctions eye-for-an-eye, but also says forgiveness is better...easier said than done, no?

Aisha said...

Anonymous, you're right.. I'm if tookie did it.. by not admitting or apologizing the families of the victims perhaps did not get their closure...

Shabina: Yeah.... its a complicated issue.

Huda said...

It's interesting because of late I've been on the liberal end of the liberal spectrum, but when it comes to the death penalty... I'm somewhat okay with it. Partly because it's shariah justice, and partly because some crimes are so horrific, death is the only option that comes close.

But the thing is, the state shouldn't be executing people if there is any chance they're innocent. Sometimes it's an air-tight case, like the guy who was the 1000th execution, or like Tookie here.

If there's even a glimmer of doubt though... better to let the guilty walk free than to kill the innocent.

Tee said...

I've struggled with the same thoughts, Aisha and I would say I am against the death penalty. (Of course, this is easy to say as my life hasn't been touched by the heartache of losing a loved ones to someone else's violence.)

Christian's who argue "Eye for an eye", should not. That is the old testament and in the new testament we're told,

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you... whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." Mat. 5:38-39

...The fact that innocent people are put to death should stop the death penalty from existing. There is no fool proof way to know for 100% certain that someone is guilty, therefore, the ultimate punishment should not be an option in my opinion. Once dealt, it can't be taken back.

At the same time - changes need to be made in the prison system. These inmates need to be put to work so that their income covers the cost of their living. We should not be paying for their education, cable TV, food, etc.

Anisa said...

great post, aisha. like mezba, i'm for it in principle, but the way our justice system is set up in america, it doesn't end up being just.

all i know is that this morning, i was sad. something felt really wrong about what happened in regards with tookie williams today.

mezba said...

Aisha, yes in Canada we have the jury/judge system, same as US.

Look up the Air India trial flight 182. The judge decided the prosecution has been reckless in its arguments, and the case against the accused is weak, and despite the emotions, he bravely ruled non-guilty, even though the gut feeling could have been otherwise.

They built a whole court for the trial, the two Sikh people accused had pro-Khalistan activities, tons of people were dead, there was lot of evidence to them, but all circumstantial. The judge properly sifted through the legalities and decided the case was weak. Could a jury of 12 people have done that? I dont know, but probably not. One look at the widows and moms and the video of the ranting by the accused and they would have delivered a guilty verdict.

That's why the death penalty in such cases should be re-examined.

Aisha said...

Mezba in the US we do have an opportunity for summary judgments or judgments not withstanding the verdict which means that the facts are such that there's no way a reasonable jury could rule otherwise. The judge makes that decision and can rule on the case. There are other methods as well where if the attorneys are being ridiculous or it seems unfair... the judge can go ahead and do something about it by either ruling w/out jury's input or transferring the trial to a place less prejiduced. I will have to look up the case you're talking about. That is awesome that the judge stepped up and did what he needed to do. I agree- when you see things like that you do have to stop and think.

Nadia said...

To the person who was criticizing the jury system: having a panel of *impartial* judges is a pretty strict standard.

Baji said...

Great post. Personally I am against the death penalty. I don't think that justice is served by eye for eye. I think that our judicial system has a lot of faults. I know that people can be rehabilitated. And, I think we can learn a lot by studying those on death row.

Ali said...

Strange to hear what happened. I was comforting myself in the fact that some last minute legal action would stop this horrible act. It didn't. Sad.

wayfarer said...

That's a great quote you chose. I'm against the death penalty for several reasons, one of which is the price we pay to kill someone in dollars. It costs so much to let them go through such an extensive appeal process. It's much cheaper to keep them locked up. Morally, i'm split on it. Great post sis.

Baji said...

Aisha, I just read the end of your post. I wanted to remind others that sometimes people are not able to "see" themselves and therefore cannot seek help. My father was jailed by both manic depression and schizophrenia.

Aisha said...

Thanks Wayfarer!

Baji, I agree some people dont realize they need the help such as you describe. That must have been difficult for you to have to go through seeing your father with those crippling illnesses... Did he end up getting help?

estarz said...

The Tookie Williams debate will go on forever .. I really have NOT been a supporter of Capital Punishment, except in rare cases. I believe in Tookie's case, he would have made a bigger difference had he lived.

I believe people can reform. Take a look at the circumstances which lead to the actions.

Peace.

Dem Soldier said...

There is no reason to kill people, when locking them up forevere is very ffective.

Baji said...

Sadly, no he did not.

Jane said...

I understand only too well what Mr. Clarey felt. When someone gets to the point of attempting suicide they are beyond depression, beyond despair...it's very much to the point of apathy really. They see no value in themselves and don't believe that their death will upset anyone. They see no reason to go on, no hope. It's tragic. Mental illness is very much a prison of the mind, one too many suffer from. Perhaps the publicity of this man's death will encourage someone out there to seek help. Thanks for addressing this issue in this post.

momyblogR said...

What a fabulous post. I can't imagine anything ever being that bad. However, for these poor suffering souls, it's ALL that bad and they don't know how to fix it. Depression is very real although I don't understand it. But I have heard people talk about the the darkness they feel. It all sounds so scary to me.

Emory said...

Death penelty is over used. It should also be imposed at the Federal level, the States are all over the board with it.

Depression is more prevalent in human commuity than any other condition. I understand depression and know that we have made great strides in addressing some of its symtoms. It all begins with a patients realizing and then acting upon the knowlegde that they have this condition. Many people are fortunate that they have a support structure around them to help with the problem. I wonder how many people are too poor, or too shut away to take advantage of modern medicines.

mystic-soul said...

Unfortunately general population is so ignorant and beyond that even loved get so apathetic to depress person like he has TB or small pox. Vicious cycle sets up and suddenly at one point human mind gives up and loose all power of thinking. Complete blindness.

Actually suicidal person get killed by people around him who fail to recognise and share the burden of emotions.

Absolutely, professional medical and social help is the key !!

(Some suicides are not included for above point like socrates, hitler or napolean's attempt are different)

Amani said...

Dare I add to the many comments on this topic? I dare...I have been blogging about this topic, and have written an article about it also. I feel that this gov't is feeding us a lie. They state that prison is meant to rehabilitate people (which many will tell you is not true), but when people claim to be rehabilitated, they call them liars and state they're just trying to get a more lenient sentence. I feel sorry for Tookie, and hope that Allah (swt) accepts his repentance.

Aisha said...

Amani, welcome and thank you for daring ;) I'll have to check your site out to see what your take is. What a good point though. very well said that we want people to rehabilitate and then when they do they are not given a chance. What kind of incentive is that to change your ways and improve if you wil never be judged differently?

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