Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Williams Execution: Repentence, Redemption, Forgiveness

Stanley Tookie Williams, convicted of four murders in 1981 and founder of the bloody drug gang the Crips, was put to death by lethal injection this morning, Reuters reports.

To the end, Williams' supporters proclaimed his innocence and asked for clemency.

Innocent he certainly wasn't -- the evidence against him in the four killings is regarded as overwhelming. And as founder of one of the most notorious gangs in U.S. history, Williams was responsible for tremendous death and destruction, most of it within his own community.

Still, while in prison Williams tried to redeem himself. While never admitting to the murders, he renounced the gang life, even writing children's books warning kids about the dangers of being a gangsta.

The question is, what is the price of public redemption and forgiveness? Did the good he did in prison outweigh the bad? Or was the mere change in the attitude of his heart enough? And who can really know the heart of a man, other than God?

Williams plight reminds of another notorious public figure who underwent a similar conversion. Former Alabama Governor George Wallace was one of the most venomous racists to ever hold public office in the United States, consistently pursuing a segregationist agenda through the 1960s and early 1970s that included a run for president.

In the mid-1970s, after an assassination attempt that left him in a wheelchair and a spiritual conversion, Wallace repented of and renounced his racist views. He sought the forgiveness of those who he had persecuted and in his last term as governor appointed a record number of black Alabamians to state government posts.

Some accepted his repentence, others did not, and he died in 1998 just as much a controversial figure.

I wonder what those who sought clemency for Williams thought of Wallace, if they thought of him at all.

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