Rev. Jesse Jackson on 'Tookie' Williams

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This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," November 28, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: A special clemency hearing is said to take place next month in California for convicted killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams. Williams is the founder of the Los Angeles based gang the Crips.

He is set to get the needle December 13 for the murders of four people in 1979. But there is now major effort underway to spare his life, which includes the rapper Snoop Dogg and the actor Jamie Foxx.

The decision will come from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has agreed to consider granting clemency.

Joining us now is the president and CEO of the Rainbow Push Coalition, Reverend Jesse Jackson.


GIBSON: Reverend, it's good to see you.

'Tookie' Williams is a man. He's living, breathing like everybody else. But he is also a convicted murderer. The law in California is that he should be executed. He's gotten the death penalty. Why should the governor save his life?

JACKSON: You know quite afar from the issue of the debate about wrongful conviction or not, he has been in jail for 25 years. He is no threat to society and has been a productive citizen while in jail.

If ever clemency was based upon mercy, atonement of being productive, this is the case. I mean, he won't walk away from jail. It means that he would not die. He would have life without parole. And so why kill one, who is projected as a noble crime laureate?

GIBSON: Rev. Jackson, I have heard you in south central L.A. decrying the gang culture, decrying the murders of African-Americans in south central L.A. by these gangs, the Crips and the Bloods.

I have heard you talking about what a scourge it is on the life of African-Americans in that community. This is the founder of one of those two gangs that's been terrorizing that community. Why should he get a break?

JACKSON: Whether the person is white or black, I really decry killing. We should break the cycle of killing. Assuming that he did the worst, the state should be more sober and more sane and a redemption must matter. Atonement must matter. Being productive must matter.

He has written these nine outstanding books. People all around the world are saying don't release him from jail lest you can document it judicially, but spare his life and that is not too much to ask for.

GIBSON: OK. Let me back up.

JACKSON: I'm glad that Gov. Schwarzenegger is going to have this hearing December 8. I talked to his office Monday appealing to them to at least reprieve, you know, because there have been so much wrongful convictions until now.

There is a committee in California setting up a commission on fairness in the administration of justice. Why kill him in December and maybe find out in April it was not necessary?

GIBSON: OK. Let's back up here. I mean, I think people want to know if the death penalty is going to be carried out, the guy is guilty of these crimes.

What is the case that he was wrongfully convicted, briefly? Why should anybody believe that he wasn't properly convicted?

JACKSON: The case has no witnesses. The case has no blood stain, no DNA. The boot that was his did not match. Gommar's hairs were found on somebody else's bed.

There is a whole lot of argument about wrongful conviction. But right now the issue is should he be eligible for clemency, a reprieve based upon his being a model productive prisoner? And that's the case that's been made here and really around the world.

I hope Gov. Schwarzenegger will accept the position of life without parole as opposed to killing him.

GIBSON: All right, now the governor, this is his exclusive decision.

JACKSON: Indeed.

GIBSON: He can grant clemency. He can grant a reprieve or he can let the law move forward, which would result in the execution of 'Tookie' Williams.

What is your indication, if any, of what the governor is now thinking?

JACKSON: You know, I don't know. The last clemency was granted by Gov. Reagan at the time, if you will. The last such hearing was by Gov. Wilson.

And so it seems that Gov. Schwarzenegger is taking seriously the arguments put forth to him about the status of the conviction. What we know is that if you are poor, a black, a brown with incompetent counsel, you are more likely to be on death row.

If you have high-profile dream team lawyers, if you're O.J., where you have much more circumstantial information you are more likely to walk. So there are these disparities because of the chance of killing someone who should not be killed, we appeal for clemency or a reprieve.

GIBSON: Jesse Jackson we shall see how this works out.

JACKSON: We shall.

GIBSON: Clemency hearing coming up. Reverend thanks a lot. We will see you on another day.

JACKSON: Thank you.

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