Williams’ Attorneys Launch New Effort to Stay Execution

Williams’ Attorneys Launch New Effort to Stay Execution
Lawyers for the Crips co-founder ask the state Supreme Court to allow access to evidence they say was withheld during the 1979 trial.
By Henry Weinstein
Times Staff Writer

November 24, 2005

Attorneys for Stanley Tookie Williams, co-founder of the Crips gang, implored the California Supreme Court on Wednesday to grant them access to a broad array of trial evidence as part of an effort to show that his 1979 conviction for four Southern California murders was unconstitutional.

“Discovery must be granted to avoid an egregious miscarriage of justice,” Pasadena attorney Verna Wefald wrote in a last-ditch legal effort to prevent 51-year-old Williams’ execution, scheduled for Dec. 13 at San Quentin State Prison.

Williams’ attorneys also have formally asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to grant him clemency for his work as an anti-gang activist on death row.

Wefald is seeking the information under a 2003 California law enacted in the aftermath of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Rampart corruption scandal. She asserts that the defense is entitled to material improperly withheld by the prosecution.

In response to an earlier defense motion, Deputy Atty. Gen. Lisa J. Brault said Williams had been provided material through the court discovery process.

Prosecutors are required to turn over anything that might help a defendant prove his innocence.

On Wednesday, Wefald argued that the attorney general’s office “knows that none of the prior discovery included any of the items Williams now seeks.” Among the information are ballistics and crime scene evidence, records about witnesses who testified against Williams in return for immunity or other benefits, and medical records that might show Williams was subjected to forced drugging while in jail awaiting trial.

“The prosecution kept secret considerable exculpatory evidence at trial, on direct appeal, and throughout state and federal habeas corpus proceedings,” Wefald wrote. “The prosecution now hopes to take advantage of its own misconduct by claiming that Mr. Williams discovered this suppression of exculpatory evidence too late.”

Wefald started doing research on Williams’ case earlier this year, but she was not formally appointed by the California Supreme Court to represent him until Oct. 21.

Wefald also sharply countered the attorney general’s contention that she could have gotten the information from Williams’ trial lawyer, Joe Ingber.

In a brief filed earlier in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the attorney general’s office “repeatedly stated that … Ingber’s files for Williams’ case were ‘lost’ quite some time ago,” Wefald wrote.

If the defense motion is granted, Wefald hopes to review the evidence with an eye toward filing Williams’ fifth state habeas corpus petition, seeking to show that his conviction was improper.

The state Supreme Court, however, has set a high standard for permitting repeated petitions of this kind. The defendant has to allege “that error of constitutional magnitude led to a trial that was so fundamentally unfair that absent the error no reasonable judge or jury would have convicted the petitioner” and/or the defendant was innocent.

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