Wednesday, December 07, 2005

T Is for Tookie – And for Terminator?

Stanley “Tookie” Williams, the founder of the violent Crips gang, is scheduled for execution next Tuesday, December 13 – T-minus six days and counting down. Tookie, Tookie, Tookie starts with T. But how does it end?

Williams’ fate has rested with Arnold Schwarzenegger since the California Supreme Court denied a motion to reopen his case one week ago on a 4-2 vote. The Governator is an avowed supporter of the death penalty, a state law declared constitutional by the SCOTUS which it is his duty to uphold barring special circumstances. T is also for Terri Schiavo, whose life was lost because governors hold the authority to save convicted murderers but not innocent wives.

As Schwarzenegger deliberated clemency for Kevin Cooper, Talk Left recorded this December 2003 prediction:

“At least one convicted murderer sentenced to death will have his sentence commuted to life without parole by Gov. Arnie during his term as Governor. We don't think it will be Cooper--but we do expect he will weigh each case individually and find one such prisoner who deserves mercy.”

Schwarzenegger decided not to grant clemency to Cooper, who remains on death row after winning a last minute stay of execution from the infamous 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Does Williams merit more gubernatorial leniency than Cooper? The clemency hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

I am personally ambivalent about the death penalty but not about the facts supporting the guilty verdict against Williams. The only clear rationale for the Governor to grant clemency is politics, not the law, and I fail to see how that benefits him politically. Laying aside how ugly and crass it would be for any politician to exploit life and death for political gain, Arnold must understand that Williams’ supporters will never vote for him. Michelle Malkin posted a roundup of commentary by blacks who oppose clemency for Tookie, including actor-writer Joseph C. Phillips whom many of us fondly remember from his portrayals on The Cosby Show and General Hospital.

After appointing Susan Kennedy, former Cabinet Secretary for Gray Davis, as his new chief of staff, Republicans who voted for Schwarzenegger are not happy. John Fund has uncovered the thorny trail from Kennedy to Phil Angelides to Bob Mulholland, the dirty trickster who slimed Bruce Herschensohn in the final days of his 1992 campaign against Barbara Boxer. Angelides, now the State Treasurer, is one of the leading Democrats running against Schwarzenegger in next year’s election.

T is also for Tom McClintock, the State Senator who is the only visible conservative advising the Governator and the candidate in retrospect many of us now wish we had supported in the 2003 recall election. Carol Platt Liebau speculates that Arnold might run for re-election as an Independent, unburdening himself of partisan baggage, which Carol thinks might free him to govern more conservatively.