So Stanley "Tookie" Williams reformed himself, wrote children's books and apologized for founding the Crips, the notorious street gang.
He also killed four people and, as of this writing, was scheduled to be executed early this morning in California.
Thank goodness Nevada has not faced this kind of death-penalty decision in many years, because it's a nightmare scenario. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is sure to take a lot of heat for refusing clemency, although it was the right thing to do.
Is a life like Tookie Williams' worth saving?
In our minds, that question begs another: Were the people he gunned down in penny-ante street robberies worth saving? Would they have had an impact on other people's lives? Would they have gone on to make significant contributions to society?
There's no way to know. Gang leader Williams acted as judge, jury and executioner on those people, and he didn't give them 20 years to see what they might make of their lives.
So Williams became a changed man in prison - at least according to his celebrity supporters, the Tookie.com Web site, his nominations for a Nobel Peace Prize.
Being sentenced to die (and being such a disruptive prisoner that he spent six years in solitary confinement) will do that to a person. If nothing else, it gave him plenty of time to try to figure out how he might get out of his fix.
Williams did more than commit crimes. He created an atmosphere of terror and anarchy through gang life, and from it spawned a culture that believes it's a clever marketing ploy to name a recording label "Death Row."
Tookie Williams has a lot to answer for, but we'll leave most of that to a higher authority. Today he simply needed to pay the price for murder.