Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

News Schwarzenegger Mulls Clemency for Williams

  1. Nov 26, 2005 #1


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/W/WILLIAMS_EXECUTION?SITE=VALYD&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&SECTION=HOME [Broken]

    I'm sure enough of you have heard of this guy. What I want to ask is this: Granting the legitimacy of the death penalty in general (for the sake of argument, whether or not you actually believe it), do you think it right to commute a sentence for achievements in prison, or only for the casting of doubt on the original conviction?

    In short, does the above argument carry any weight?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 26, 2005 #2
    If one can, and is willing to contribute positively, Justice is better served by sparing their life.

    Taking a life does not balance the life lost.

    So I would say yes, grant clemency.
  4. Nov 26, 2005 #3
    I'm against the death penalty in general.
  5. Nov 26, 2005 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    LYN made it clear that this was not the issue here.

    I feel that this should be the only case where one could have his sentenced reduced based on achievements (death penalty to life, nothing else). It's not fair to the victims to radically redefine justice based on someones achievements (say reducing a 30 year sentence to 10 because someone wrote an inspirational book). This however, is not radical so I wouldn't be against it.... although then one must wonder how far people would try to stretch that idea...
  6. Nov 26, 2005 #5
    I missed that part. In that case, I agree with Skyhunter.
  7. Nov 26, 2005 #6


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It's going to be really hard to have a pointed debate on the specific issue without going right back to the justification for the death penalty.

    For now, accepting the legitimacy of (or morality behind) the death penalty the choice is simple - it's a straightforward business decision. Tookie's life is now the "property" of the state of California. And the decision lies with the state govt, so the outcome should be what results from a cost-benefit analysis for the state. While this analysis (basically the process that Arnie is hopefully going through) is certainly extremely probabilistic and complex, once it is determined that the sparing of the life provides a greater benefit to the state, that is the decision to take. If not, there should be no pardon.

    What are some possible costs and benefits of pardoning Tookie ?

    Costs :

    1. Angering a large segment of the public that "wants justice". If people get angry, grumble, and then forget about it after a while, there's no real cost. If not, a careful analysis of what might result from widespread discontent is in order.

    2. Giving the wrong signal to other offenders out in the streets, thus losing some of the ability to deter crime. The cost would be an increase in crime, as a result.

    Some benefits :

    1. Appeasing some large segment of the people - specifically the anti-death-penaltyers. What does this help other than re-election ? I don't see any obvious benefit, so this is not (IMO) anything big.

    2. Enabling the possibility that Tookie can do good to reduce crime by whatever it is he does - write books, etc. This seems to be the only real benefit, but it's a big one if there is any evidence that above possibility is in fact a reality. If there's data that shows that someone quit his gang after reading something writ by Tookie Williams, that would be evidence.
  8. Nov 26, 2005 #7
    Roughly paraphrasing from the Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain,
    (It was written in relation to a clemency plea for Injun Joe, a criminal in the book).

    The basic point is 'justice is justice'. If you want to live in a civilized society, murderers should not be granted pardon. No matter what they do afterwards does not change the fact that they killed.
  9. Nov 26, 2005 #8
    I missed where someone suggested that he be pardoned. :confused:

    The question was clemency. Should his life be spared? Not whether he should be pardoned for his crimes.
  10. Nov 26, 2005 #9
    I suppose this indicates that you believe people do not change. I would guess people that believe people do not change, are more likely to see the death penalty as stabilising civilisation, and people that believe that people DO change, think that the death penalty may as likely DEstabilise civilisation. Personally, I definitely do not think this statement (emphasis added):
    ...can be taken for granted. It relies on the premise that people do not change.
  11. Nov 26, 2005 #10
    No, I believe people do change and even murderers can change. But the point of the judiciary is not reform but retribution. If it loses that purpose, then injustice will reign and the consequences would be ugly.
    To apply it to this case, if he is granted pardon now, then it will be a signal to murderers that if they kill and then reform or pretend to reform, they can escape death and be nominated for the Nobel Prize.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2005
  12. Nov 26, 2005 #11
    Maybe pardon was a misuse of words on my part. I apologize.
    Regardless, it would be a travesty of justice to even consider clemency unless there is some doubt about his guilt. He killed, he should die. An eye for an eye.
  13. Nov 27, 2005 #12
    Makes the whole world blind.
  14. Nov 27, 2005 #13
    They should give him clemency.. The idea behind punishment is to correct behaviour. He has shown remorce and is actively helping the community through his work against gang wars. His behaviour has changed, job done. Killing him will not help the community.
    And I thought the death penetly was supposed to be a deterent, rather than for revenge purposes... I guess I should stop thinking so compassionatly!!! Silly me :yuck:
  15. Dec 12, 2005 #14

    Math Is Hard

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I'm getting nervous. There are rumors of Los Angeles exploding into riots if Tookie is executed.
  16. Dec 12, 2005 #15
    CNN is reporting his clemency was denied. Anyone know why it took 26 years?
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2005
  17. Dec 12, 2005 #16


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    The way "the system" works, it just does. Appeals, stays, etc. make it impossible to carry out the death penalty in a timely fashion.

    Frankly, if it were carried out in a timely fashion, that would make this discussion moot: no one would have time to reform before execution.
  18. Dec 12, 2005 #17
    Actually he hasn't shown remorse. He still maintains that he is innocent of the crimes that he was sentenced for even though every single one of his apeals has been shot down. Even the ninth circuit, generally considered the most liberal court in the country, has turned him down. Just today they turned him down again when his lawyers asked for an emergency stay of execution. When the Governator decided against granting clemency he actually made a point of saying that in review of the case it does not seem Mr. Williams has any remorse for the crimes he has been convicted of so he can not accept the claims that he is a reformed man. He also brought up the issue of the books and the fact that Mr. Williams dedicated one of them to several convicted murderers, including George Jackson who founded the Black Guerilla Family prison gang. All in all I have a hard time believing that Mr. Williams is a reformed man myself.

    I've been worried about that too. I was wondering if the Governator may even grant clemency just to avoid such a situation.
    I'm pretty sure something will happen. I hope that it doesn't turn out terribly violent.
  19. Dec 12, 2005 #18


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    Well, that's going to be wonderful if they start rioting right as I come home for Christmas.
  20. Dec 13, 2005 #19


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    And/or perhaps there is a need to debate the purpose of prison. Certainly it is to protect society. But is it to reform or only to punish? Reform is very rare.
    Studies have shown the death penalty does not act as a deterrent, especially in crimes of passion.
    Excellent point. Though this ‘due process’ is designed to protect the occasional innocent citizen, it creates a secondary cost to society.

    "The death penalty costs California $90 million annually beyond the ordinary costs of the justice system - $78 million of that total is incurred at the trial level." (Sacramento Bee, March 18, 1988). http://www.mindspring.com/~phporter/econ.html [Broken]

    As compared to life in prison, this same source quotes $16,100 per inmate/year (in 1994), but other sources quote $20,000 to $30,000 for incarceration only (not including medical, dental, and psychological services - e.g., http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/usa1003/6.htm)

    When criminals, particularly those who commit heinous crimes can’t or have no desire to change, personally I’m not in favor of society being victimized repeatedly by spending more than most people in the world earn to provide ‘life’ for these individuals.
    If people could be reformed with a significant success rate, I would be concerned about providing incentive. But most male convicts maintain innocence and have little or no remorse, and typically return to a life of crime and to prison.

    As for fear of riots, if this were to occur it would prove Williams to be linked to violence rather than a positive force in society.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  21. Dec 13, 2005 #20
    I gotta hand it to Arnold for not caving in to Hollywood pressure. My respect just went up and I wasn't a big fan of him.
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2005
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook