Williams was convicted in connection with four killings during a pair of armed robberies in 1979. But he never wavered from his claim of innocence and refused to confess to crimes he did not commit, even if doing so would save his life.
I'm not a student of this case, but Williams wasn't convicted "in connection" with the killings--he was convicted for murdering four people. And so far as I can tell, only the fringey, Free-Mumia types believed that Williams did not commit these murders.
And then there's the AP report's strange, Darkness at Noon notion that the State somehow told Williams that they would stop the execution if he would only admit to the murders. Again, without knowing all the details of the case, I find it hard to believe that this happened.
(Also, if you read further down in the AP story, you'll see that the reporters don't find the moral pronouncements of the Vatican so objectionable when they fit with the journalists religious agenda. If the Vatican is against homosexual priests, then they're hopeless retrogrades; but if they're against the death penalty, then they're our moral tutors. Funny how that works.)
In sum: The Europeans are idiots and the AP report is at least severely flawed, and maybe much worse. And yet, despite having to keep company with these people as well as the Hollywood idiots who spent last week parading for Tookie, his execution--like all executions--was a bad thing. In many ways, Tookie was the poster-child for the death penalty: Clearly, if you're going to have capital punishment, it's meant for bad guys like Williams.
But when it is avoidable, the state--we--should not be in the business of taking lives. For the broader arguments as to why, see Cardinal Dulles and Jody Bottum, both of whom do so better than I could hope to.
Update, 11:54 a.m.: Reader Jay Homnick cites Gov. Schwarzenegger's statement on the Williams case as evidence that had Williams admitted his guilt, he would have been saved: Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption. In this case, the one thing that would be the clearest indication of complete remorse and full redemption is the one thing Williams will not do."
I'm not sure that this is exactly what the governor means. Was the offer on the table for Williams? Or was Schwarzenegger using this idea of atonement as a smokescreen.
While I'm happy to believe in atonement, the idea that redemption should commute a death mark seems faulty to me. Tookie Williams or Carla Faye Tucker are no more deserving of life because they have reformed and no less deserving of life if they haven't reformed. And how are we to judge genuine reformation and atonement, which is much harder to establish than guilt?