L.A. Times Letter (2005)

Mr. Steve Lopez Los Angeles Times Dear Steve, As one of those characterized in today's column about Stanley Williams' execution as “the usual Hollywood rabble,” I'm insulted not only by that unnecessary and inappropriate slight but also by your casual dismissal of legitimate concerns expressed by a broad cross-section of our society including Nobel laureates, religious leaders, kids in disadvantaged communities and people from all walks of life. Questions about the appropriateness of Mr. Williams' sentence were not limited to those you so rudely dismiss, but were expressed as well by an appellate judge discomfited by a death sentence based as it was on "circumstantial evidence and the testimony of witnesses whose credibility was highly suspect.” Should you care to investigate the matter, you'll find that commissions examining problems with the death penalty in states as disparate as Illinois, Massachusetts and Virginia – as well as studies by the independent Constitution Project - have concluded that “snitch testimony” is an unacceptable basis upon which to mete out a death sentence. None of the “Hollywood rabble” of whom I'm aware was suggesting Mr. Williams simply be freed, only that he be commuted to life without parole in order to continue the work that has made him a champion of young people looking for an alternative to gangs, drugs and violence. With regard to your certitude about Mr. Williams' guilt, and your parroting of the theme of the antagonistic dismissal of Williams' clemency request written for the Governor, one can only wonder about this insistence that he could not have been “truly redeemed,” reformed or rehabilitated unless he took responsibility for murders he consistently denied having committed. Without having been on the scene it's hard to know the truth of the matter, but when we condemn and justify taking the life of a helpless, incarcerated individual by the testimony of those who profit from their performance in court we venture onto a very slippery slope. I don't know how seriously to take the affidavit of Gordon Bradbury Von Elllerman, but he did put himself at risk of perjury when sending it to the Governor, who dismissed it with the same casual contempt you display for the ‘Hollywood rabble' and others. If true, however, his words raise very serious questions about the conviction you and the Governor are so satisfied with – the one that cost yet another life.


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