Through the mysterious alchemy of “social justice,” criminals become martyr-saints. Habitual criminal Rodney King is now spoken of in the same pious tone once reserved for icons like plagiarist/philanderer Martin Luther King, Jr. William Andrews, who was executed last year by the state of Utah for his role in the 1974 torture-slayings of three people, has now joined the leftist pantheon.

Nineteen years ago, William Andrews and Pierre Dale Selby were airmen stationed at the Hill Air Force Base near Ogden, Utah. Selby had a reputation for violence; Andrews’ military record depicts him as a compulsive troublemaker who was well on his way to a dishonorable discharge. One evening in 1974, Andrews and Selby broke into a hi-fi shop in Ogden. In the course of a four-hour robbery—inspired, in part, by the need to appease drug habits—Andrews and Selby tortured five people, three of whom died.

The burglars brought an arsenal that included two handguns and a supply of Drano. The handguns were to be used to conduct the robbery, but the Drano was to be used as a murder weapon. Andrews poured caustic cocktails that were forced down the throats of his victims. The victims’ mouths were taped shut, apparently to prevent them from expelling the poison.

After administering the Drano Andrews left the hi-fi store, apparently to act as a lookout. While Andrews was gone, Selby raped one of the victims and kicked a ballpoint pen deep into the ear of another. Selby then shot the latter in the head with Andrews’ .38. He thus made an individual decision to accelerate the murder objective mutually agreed upon with Andrews. While two of the victims were saved, examinations later confirmed that all of them would have died from poisoning had they been left unattended.

Both Andrews and Selby were black. Accordingly, the all-white jury at the 1974 “Hi-Fi Murder” trial became an issue, as did the fact that prospective juror James Gillespie, Jr., a black man, was dismissed by the prosecutor in a peremptory challenge. But it was the defense that first sought to dismiss Mr. Gillespie, because he was a law enforcement officer (and thus considered prejudiced in favor of testimony from other law enforcement officers). When the judge refused to grant the defense’s motion, the prosecution asked for Gillespie’s dismissal in order to deny a possible basis for an appeal. Prior to Andrews’ death, Gillespie publicly supported the sentence and insisted that the 1974 trial was untainted by racism. Ironically, it was Gillespie—who now works as director of field communications for the Utah Department of Corrections—who delivered the official announcement of Andrews’ execution.

Selby was executed in 1987, provoking predictable protests from opponents of capital punishment. Many objected to the “racist” application of the death penalty: several white murderers in Utah are serving life sentences, rather than anticipating execution on death row. As Andrews’ execution approached, the “social justice” industry began to protest that he was merely an accomplice to the lethal crime and thus not properly a murderer.

In the final weeks before Andrews’ execution, his supporters depicted him as a quiet, modest young man who had been helplessly drawn into Selby’s orbit. But both his military and prison records belie such a description. Andrews’ role in the murders had been well-established at the trial; the procedural questions related to the trial had been examined in six separate appeals to the Supreme Court. Interviews with Selby and Andrews conducted by social workers had provided evidence that it was Andrews, not Selby, who took the initiative in planning the crime.

There was no reason to believe that Andrews had been “rehabilitated” during his 18-year tenancy on death row. His personal record at the Utah state prison is replete with escape attempts, arson attempts, threats of sexual assault, and acts of physical assault. On one occasion, for example, Andrews somehow constructed a spear, which he threw at a prison guard.

In an execution-eve interview on local public television, Andrews complained that “I haven’t had a chance to enjoy the more beautiful things in life. I’ve never seen the ocean, I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon. There are so many good people in the world I never got a chance to meet.” (He met a few in the hi-fi store one evening, with fatal consequences for them.) He uttered not one syllable of remorse for his acts nor regret toward the surviving victims.

The contention that Utah’s death penalty is racist in application is difficult to sustain. Of the 47 murderers executed by the state of Utah before Andrews, 41 were white; the remainder of the total was divided evenly among blacks, Hispanics, and American Indians. This allotment is representative of the state’s racial composition.

Nevertheless, career leftists and racebaiters besieged the state. Amnesty International orchestrated an international letter-writing campaign on Andrews’ behalf; letters from around the globe were delivered to Utah Governor Norman Bangerter and published in Utah papers. Television actor Mike Farrell (B.J. Hunnicutt of M*A*S*H*) was brought to the state in an attempt to win clemency from the governor. In a speech to Andrews supporters, black activist Ron Hampton declared, “We have reason to believe Utah can be classified among the states in the Bible Belt that live and practice racism.” (Hampton’s logic is as reliable as his geography.) The Utah chapter of the NAACP announced that “the color of justice in Utah is white” and conducted a nightly vigil outside the governor’s mansion. Two other black organizations filed an appeal before Third District Judge Anne Stirba. Attorney Victor Gordon, who represented the organizations, announced that “this execution signals the end to the hopes that racism and discrimination will end, and will signify . . . the arrival of repression, and will build the foundation for Apartheid in Utah.” In keeping with the South Africa parallel, Desmond Tutu called the Utah NAACP to express support for Andrews.

In a final testament delivered hours before his July 30 execution, Andrews thanked his supporters for their efforts and urged them to “continue the fight for social justice after I’m gone.” He also expressed the hope that “maybe a lot of white people will learn that black people have the same emotions, same loves, and same hates as they do.”

Black “leaders” in Utah saw nothing amiss in designating Andrews a symbol of the “black community.” But at a memorial service Steven Hawkins of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund elevated Andrews beyond the status of martyr; he compared him to Jesus Christ, insisting that Andrews was “innocent and unjustly accused . . . a man whose life has changed us all and made the world a better place. . . . He has made the ultimate contribution to our struggle.”

The Utah NAACP has taken strength from Andrews’ “sacrifice.” It has even organized a “William Andrews Committee for Equal Justice,” a group that intends to tabulate incidents of individual and “institutional” racism, monitor court proceedings, and “educate Utahans about racism.” The William Andrews Committee will be assisted in this effort by the Utah Martin Luther King Human Rights Commission, which was established by Republican Governor Norman Bangerter’s executive order in August 1991. One state legislator who serves on the commission has said that informal contacts between the two groups had been made before Andrews’ execution. /,P.

The state Human Rights Commission has since beatified another criminal. Last August, 18-year-old Stevie Manzanares was shot while attempting robbery. Because Manzanares is Hispanic, many elements of Utah’s “social justice” industry—including the Socialist Workers’ Party and members of the Human Rights Commission—have classified the shooting a racial incident. A coalition of career malcontents organized a protest march on Manzanares’ behalf in Salt Lake City last August 29. Among the speakers at the protest was Jeanette Williams, a vice-president of the Utah NAACP and a member of the William Andrews Committee. She added Manzanares’ name to the martyrs’ roster: “Every time they hear Stevic’s name, they’ll know we are fighting the injustices here in the state of Utah.”

The Human Rights Commission has few misgivings about Manzanares’ worthiness as a hero. When I mentioned the young man’s attempted robbery to a legislator who serves on the commission, I was told, “If he [Manzanares] was an Anglo, the police wouldn’t have pulled their guns so quickly.” The Human Rights Commission is obviously too busy auditing racial attitudes to take notice of the human rights abuses wrought by thieves and murderers.