Friday, December 02, 2005

FYI ...

-----Original Message-----
From: Senator Perata
Sent: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 1:34 PM
Subject: Stanley Williams

Dear Friends:

I want to share with you the text of the letter I am sending to Governor Schwarzenegger asking him to grant clemency to condemned inmate Stanley Williams. I do not excuse Mr. Williams for his deplorable crimes, nor do I find his recent atonement adequate justification for clemency. However, the substantial and growing body of evidence of biased and unjust application of the death penalty in California and throughout the nation compels me to support clemency in this, and in every, capital case. As I write in the letter below, we must not accept any substitute for guaranteeing the fair and equal application of the law, particularly when a person's life is at stake.

November 28, 2005

The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
State of California
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

I am writing to respectfully request that you grant clemency to prevent the execution of Stanley Williams.

I make this request despite the horrific crimes Mr. Williams has committed. Human decency dictates that the murder of four innocent people cannot be pardoned or excused. And by his own admission, Mr. Williams once helped foster the culture of death that plagues too many California neighborhoods.

Nor am I persuaded that Mr. Williams’ recent good conduct in and of itself constitute grounds for clemency. A lifetime of atonement – while noteworthy – strikes me as insufficient when compared to the offenses of which Mr. Williams stands convicted.

Rather, I ask clemency in this case because I have lost confidence in California’s death penalty as an instrument of justice.

There’s clear and compelling evidence of racial bias in the application of this statute. A third of death-row inmates are African Americans, who make up less than 7 percent of our state population. A Santa Clara Law Review study found that defendants who kill white victims are far more likely to be sentenced to death that those whose victims are from other ethnic groups.

Moreover, the large proportion of poor and uneducated death-row prisoners strongly suggests that our state imposes greater punishments upon low-income defendants than those of greater means. In fact, this disparity is so pervasive that it has prompted the author of California’s death penalty statute to call for its repeal.

No doubt many believe death is a fitting punishment in this case. But satisfying the public mood is no substitute for guaranteeing the fair and equal application of the law. Until our system meets this strict standard, we should refrain from using its awesome power to take human life.

A system of justice that effectively reserves its harshest penalties for the poor – and for those who victimize people of a particular color of skin – is instead the very antithesis of justice. This is a cruel irony that we can prevent – now.


Don Perata

Photo: At the gates of San Quentin, an unidentified nun from the Dominican Sisters of San Rafael. She read an eloquent statement from her order asking for clemency and an end to capital punishment in the State.

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