Entry for December 08, 2005

Tomorrow marks the 24th year since Philadelphia police shot and beat journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal before his later railroading  to death row.  Tuesday he had good news when the United State  Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit issued an order of appealability. 

His attorney, Robert Bryan of California,  explains the significance of the order at millions4mumia.org.

the court will accept for review…issues…which are of enormous constitutional significance and go to the very essence of Mumia’s right to a fair trial due process of law, and equal protection of the law under the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

The issues include whether Mumia was denied constitutional rights due to the prosecution’s trial summation; the state’s use of peremptory challenges at trial; and post-conviction alleged judicial bias. The opening briefs are due to be filed by January 17, 2006.

Mumia continues to write from prison.  Here’s his November 20 column on Tookie Williams , whom I wrote about on December 1.)  You can find other columns at  millions4mumia. 

 Today, based on an action alert from Ramsey Clark’s International Action Center (IAC) , I spent time writing the following to the Governor of California.

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger,

Today, when you met with William’s attorneys, you demonstrated seriousness and leadership in the face of demagogues who would ask you to only weigh the political consequences of clemency.

Next Tuesday, Dec 13, 2005, the State of California will kill Stanley Tookie Williams, unless you take action. I have read statements by the prosecutors.  I have read the decision by appeal judges acknowledging his turnaround.  I have read his petition for clemancy. I urge you to stop this execution.

I spent my entire professional career in corrections.  As you know, reasonable people question Williams’ conviction. As you know, the death penalty is irreversible. As you know, those who argue that the death penalty is a deterrent have been rebutted.  (If you haven’t already read it, you will find 2005 testimony at http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/FaganTestimony.pdf.)

If the death penalty is used, it should be administered fairly across racial and economic lines, reserved for cases in which the prosecution has proved against a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty and that no other penalty will ensure public safety.

While in solitary confinement, Mr. Williams turned away from his past life.  As he said in an interview with broadcast journalist Amy Goodman on November 30, “I often tell people that I didn’t have a 360-degree turnaround; I had a 720-degree turnaround. It took me twice as much. Just one spin around wouldn’t have done it. I was that messed up, that lost…[A]ny time that they can make it appear as though I’m still a monster, then society will say, ‘Well, kill him.’ It facilitates my death. Common sense.”  

Stanley Tookie Williams is not still a monster. While in solitary confinement and since his release, he has devoted his time to writing books aimed at ending gang violence and helping youth avoid gang involvement. He has been nominated for the Nobel Peace and Literature prizes. He has received this summer a service award signed by President Bush for his work with youth.

On November 29, my own Governor, Mark Warner of Virginia, a supporter of the death penalty, showed great fortitude.   He stopped an executiion on its eve, due to the State’s destruction of DNA evidence, despite advice that it could make for a smear heyday if he runs for President.

I uge to look within your heart. Please use the unique power of your office to grant clemency in this case. Thanking you for your careful consideration of this matter, I remain,

Sincerely yours,

Beth J. Wellington

IAC allows you to draft your own letter and send it automatically to host of folks.  I opted to use the Governor’s own email form to submit his letter and then IAC’s form to copy everyone else with a request to join my appeal. 

Things I found especially helpful were the clemency petiition  I found on Tookie’s homepage, as well as the current research on the lack of deterrent value of the death penalty (referenced below in the letter) which I found on the Death Penalty Information Center’s site.  

By the way,  four attorney from the New York  law firm  of Curtis, Mallet-Provost Colt and Mosle , and others, are assisting Tookie’s California counsel of record, Verna Wefald.  The firm  has posted all the clemency materials on its site,  including letters of support and a video.     The attorneys  have amended the petition in reply to prejudicial law enforcement actions rising to the standard of official misconduct which occurred after the original petition was filed November 9.  On the 15th,  the Fontana Police Department’s erroneous report to print and television media that

a warrant had been issued for one Lafayette Jones, a known sex offender, for raping a 13 year old child. The police identified Mr. Jones as the son of Stanley Tookie Williams. This was a lie. The media attention which followed on television, in print, and on the internet has parroted this lie — showing pictures of Stanley Tookie Williams and focusing on the relationship to Stanley Tookie Williams.

The brief goes on to explain that minimal investigation revealed that the father is another Stanley Williams, age 59,  (Tookie is 52).  The mother, Janice Anderson declares in an attachment:

I, Janice Anderson, hereby declare under penalty of  perjury.  The man known in the news media as Lafayette Jones who is a fugitive from a rape charge is not the son of  Stanley Tookie Williams. I am Jones’ mother. 

Also attached a declaration by the attorneys’ investigator, Raymond Stevens.  Mrs. Anderson told  Mr. Stevens that she had contacted the Fontana Police immediately after hearing the false report that her son’s father was Stanley Tookie Williams. A police sergeant said that is was a purported police tactice and that

it did not matter… They are both very upset that the police and the news media were continuing to report falsely that Lafayette Jones was the son of Stanley Tookie Williams even after they had both been informed by her and other relatives that this was not true.

Then November 17, 2005, Vernell Crittendon, the spokesperson for San Quentin State Prison said that that he suspected

Stanley Williams of orchestrating gangland crimes from his cell.

Again, the inflamatory allegation was repeated in print, on the internet and on television.  The official An official San Quentin Institutional Classification Committee (ICC) Summary dated August 5, 2004, reported that William’s last infraction was July 6, 1993 and that 

Lt. G. Fuller stated that during his assignment in East Block he has not observed Williams in any gang involvement. ICC commended Williams on his positive program over the last ten years. Williams thanked ICC for their respectful treatment.

The Los Angeles Police Department spokeswomen, April Harding, recently stated there is no evidence of any illegal gang activity on Stanley Williams’ part.  Daniel Vasquez, warden at San Quentin from 1983 to 1993, was recently quoted as saying, in reference to Crittendon’s statements, that he had never seen such an inflammatory statement in a news release from the prison, and that it was

like they’re trying to drum up business for death row.

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