A guard watches the gates of San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 11, 2005. Stanley Tookie Williams, co-founder of the Crips gang and a convicted murderer, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the prison early Tuesday.
George Skelton of the Los Angeles Times has Gov. Taking His Time to Make Right Decision
As this is being written Sunday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger still has not announced his life-or-death verdict on Stanley Tookie Williams. And that could mean several things.
It certainly means he is not rushing his decision, but using practically all the time available. Like governors before him, Schwarzenegger wants to be absolutely sure on this. No haunting doubts, no sleepless nights.
As of 5:00 AM PST, there has been no announcement from the Governor’s office.
And he needs to be able to explain his action, in detail â€” not only to a public that supports capital punishment but also to family and Hollywood friends who oppose it.
“You just have to have an open mind,” Schwarzenegger told reporters Friday, speaking of clemency decisions generally. “They are very heavy responsibilities.”
As for Williams, he added, “I am studying the whole thing, reading a lot â€¦ doing all the research on it so we make the right decision.”
Schwarzenegger is allowing the legal process to work.
Barring any last minute federal stay, Tookie Williams will be executed at 12:01 AM Tuesday.
“Clemency is very difficult to earn,” says former Gov. Pete Wilson, who permitted five killers to be executed. “If you’ve been guilty of a brutal murder, it seems to me you’re called upon to pay for it with your life.
“There is a very slippery slope that would encourage simulated redemption and good works to escape that penalty.”
Another reason clemency would be surprising is this: If there is one thing Schwarzenegger seems to firmly believe in, it is that a governor should follow the people’s will.
Californians in 1978 voted to reinstate capital punishment, fitting it with new Supreme Court guidelines. And they still overwhelmingly favor it.
Schwarzenegger probably isn’t consciously pondering the political ramifications of his decision, but he is aware of public support for the death penalty. The last survey by the Field Poll on capital punishment, in March 2004, found that 68% of California voters favored it. That included 54% of Democrats and 87% of Republicans.
Historically, Californians’ support for the death penalty has ebbed and flowed. In 1956, 49% favored it; in 1971, 58%; in 1985, 83%; in 1997, 74%. Same poll question, different events in the news.
The political consequences will be major for Arnold should he grant clemency. It will certainly bring him a Republican primary challenge and in all likelyhood a loss in the June Republican primary election.
Norma Jean Cabrera, right, joins other protesters outside the gates of San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 11, 2005, to demonstrate against the planned execution of Stanley Tookie Williams. Williams, co-founder of the Crips street gang and a convicted murderer, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at the prison early Tuesday.
If Schwarzenegger were to grant clemency to Williams, says Republican consultant Kevin Spillane, “he’d dramatically lose support from conservatives. And he wouldn’t make up for it with new support from liberals or Crips gang members.”
Michelle Malkin has THE TOOKIE FILES: ARNOLD’S CHOICE
Veteran Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters assesses the politics of Schwarzenegger’s choice.
Background on Kennedy from John Fund here.