Supreme Court Refuses To Block Williams Execution
Williams Set To Die Just After Midnight
POSTED: 7:52 am PST December 11, 2005
UPDATED: 6:46 pm PST December 12, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger Monday denied clemency for convicted killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams, co-founder of the Crips street gang, setting the stage for Williams' execution at one minute past midnight.
pdf.: Governor's Statement
Images: Hearing | Images: Exhibits Displayed | Images: Rallies Held | Images: Execution Date Set | Video: Defense Urges Clemency
Images: Inside San Quentin
"Clemency cases are always difficult and this one is no exception," Schwarzenegger said in a statement rejecting clemency for Williams, who was convicted of four Southland murders.
"After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find no justification for granting clemency," the governor said. "The facts do not justify overturning the jury's verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case."
Williams' attorneys responded by asking the governor to grant a stay of execution, claiming three new witnesses have come forward in recent days indicating Williams may have been framed for the murders.
"All of the witnesses who implicated Stanley Williams at trial were career criminals and informants given sweetheart deals by the prosecution in return for their testimony against Stanley Williams," defense attorneys wrote in their request for a delay.
Schwarzenegger decided, however, that the statements from new witnesses "do not cast serious doubt on the jury's decision that Williams is guilty, because his conviction was based on ballistics evidence and multiple witnesses who gave overlapping and corroborating testimony."
"Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption."
- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
The California Supreme Court Sunday night rejected an appeal for a stay of execution for Williams, the fifth time it has done so. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today also rejected Williams' request for a stay.
The U.S. Supreme Court late Monday also refused to block the execution.
With the execution approaching, Southland law enforcement officials said they did not expect any outbreaks of violence or civil disobedience. Much of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department went on tactical alert to ensure deputies are available to handle any violence that may occur.
Los Angeles police Officer Sara Faden said Monday afternoon the LAPD has not gone on any sort of tactical alert.
LAPD Chief William Bratton said earlier Monday he would be surprised to see any violent uprising by community members in support of Williams.
"They understand who's committing the murders, who's destroying their neighborhoods, and Tookie Williams is the poster boy for all of that," Bratton said. "The fact that they're going to come into the streets to demonstrate or riot on his behalf, I haven't seen it, and I don't think we're going to see it."
Williams' supporters began a vigil in Leimert Park beginning at 8 a.m.
"If anyone was worthy of clemency who is currently on death row, we believe it's Stanley `Tookie' Williams, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, a peace ambassador," said Najee Ali of Project Islamic Hope. "Gov. Schwarzenegger realized that he had nothing to gain by granting clemency for Tookie Williams politically, but had everything to lose by losing political support.
"We feel he should have shown more courage and conviction to simply do the right thing and leave politics out of his decision."
In northern California, NAACP officials and Williams' attorneys said they were disappointed in the governor's decision.
"I must tell you we are deeply saddened by the governor's decision to not grant clemency," said Alice Huffman, statewide president of the NAACP. "We believe it is a serious blow to eliminating gangs and to creating a safer environment."
Williams, for the last several years, has made a difference in the lives of children all over the world by crusading against gang violence, Huffman said.
"It's clear we have no voice and no standing with the governor," Huffman said.
Bruce Gordon, the NAACP's national president, said the decision absolutely reinforces the NAACP's opposition to the death penalty, based upon our genuine belief that the criminal justice system is flawed."
Gordon said he believes the governor based his decision in part on Williams' refusal to admit guilt to the killings.
Jonathan Harris, one of Williams' attorneys, said he is asking the governor for a stay of execution so evidence favorable to Williams from three witnesses who recently came forward can be investigated.
But for now, the governor's decision clears the way for Williams' execution by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.
Sandi Gibbons of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said the governor's action ends a process that began in 1979 when "four people were murdered in L.A. County."
"We feel the governor made the appropriate decision and I think he stated it quite well, noting he had looked at all the evidence and did not feel overturning the work of the appellate courts is justified," Gibbons said.
"Mr. Williams was tried and convicted and appealed in every available court, and those appeals were turned down," she said.
With options running out for Williams, Pasadena lawyer Verna Wefald filed an emergency request for a state of execution to the state Supreme Court Saturday night. She also filed a 150-page petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the validity of his 1981 convictions and death sentences.
The state Supreme Court Sunday night turned down the requests.
Protests and prayer vigils were held over the weekend to urge the governor to commute Williams' sentence to life in prison, and community leaders called for calm no matter what happens.
No governor has granted clemency since executions resumed in California in 1992. The last California governor to grant clemency to a condemned criminal was Ronald Reagan, in 1967.
The governor met Thursday with Williams' lawyers and with prosecutors, who urged Schwarzenegger not to spare the life of a man they had described as a "cold-blooded killer."
Now 51, Williams was sentenced to death in 1981 after he was found guilty of murdering four people during two separate robberies in the Los Angeles area two years earlier.
He was convicted of fatally shooting Albert Owens during a February 1979 robbery at a 7-Eleven in Pico Rivera and of murdering South Los Angeles motel owners Yen-I Yang and Tsai-Shai Chen Yang and their daughter, Yu Chin Yang Lin, a month later.
While behind bars, Williams has crusaded against gangs and authored several children's books. His efforts earned him Nobel Prize nominations -- for peace and in literature -- but he was never a finalist for the honor.
Celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Mike Farrell and Jamie Foxx, who portrayed Williams in a television movie called "Redemption," have also been pushing for clemency.
Williams was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a man during an armed robbery in February 1979 and of murdering a couple and their daughter at a South Los Angeles motel a month later.
Prosecutors and families of the victims noted that Williams has never admitted to the killings or expressed remorse, although he has apologized for starting the Crips.
A candlelight vigil is expected to continue in South Los Angeles throughout the day, lasting until Williams' scheduled execution.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson of the Los Angeles Urban Police Roundtable said Williams' message of nonviolence "won't be executed with him."
"This man's a peacemaker," Hutchinson said. "He's made it clear in word and deed that he's been out there for 10 years and ... working to keep the peace in our communities, communities that have been torn by gangs and gun violence. "
“Nobody's perfect. We're all just one step up from the beasts and one step down from the angels.”