Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Thoughts on the death of a killer

Tookie is dead. My last thoughts on the subject don't have to do with his death, but rather with the circus surrounding it. I never doubted that there would be such a circus, but became personally aware of it because of the angry buzzing of helicopters. I live within San Quentin's radius and, for hours, helicopters flitted around the prison, shining beams down upon it and then buzzing away. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the media was down there in droves, and it was no surprise to learn that "Outside the prison gates, about 2,000 death-penalty protesters prayed for a last-minute reprieve. . . ." I found the circus interesting. The concept of closed executions is a modern one. In the old days, both at home and abroad, executions were public events, held to maximize the audience. The purpose was to warn onlookers away from criminal activity. Each convict executed was a "terrible example." For that reason, children were encouraged to attend executions. Tookie's execution was also held up by those attending as a "terrible example," but in a very different way. The attendees (aided by the media) were not pointing to the ultimate just end for a life of violence and cruelty. Instead, they were celebrating that life and pointing their fingers at the justice system that, over the course of 25 years of grinding slow and small, brought Tookie to this end. In that regard, remember that the Fifth Amendment, which gives rise to all our due process notions, specifically contemplates the fact that the government can deprive a person of life, provided that this decision comports with due process. I continue to be ambivalent about the death penalty, since I believe it has numerous flaws that leave many death penalty decisions in doubt. Tookie's 25 year journey through the legal system, at tax payer's expense, also highlights a problem with the process -- it's expensive, and, nowadays, it allows truly bad guys the time to gather around them a posse of useful idiots. Having said all that, I never felt that Tookie was cheated by the due process in this system, nor have I felt that Tookie is a victim of the inherent bias against race and poverty that permeates the system. Tookie did the crimes for which he stood accused, Tookie started a revolution of bloodshed when he founded the Crips, Tookie did not redeem himself, and it's okay that Tookie died. I only wish that he had done so without the media spectacle that pointed to him, not as a terrible example of a life of crime, but as a martyr to some inexplicable cause.