Despite Clemency Pleas, Gang Leader Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams Executed

img_5694_std Despite Clemency Pleas, Gang Leader Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams Executed
Date: Tuesday, December 13, 2005
By: Monica Lewis,

Despite a last minute appeal for clemency before California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, infamous gang leader Stanley “Tookie” Williams, 51, was executed by lethal injection early Tuesday morning in San Quentin State Prison.

Williams, best known for starting the notorious Crips, was convicted of four 1979 murders in Los Angeles and has sat on California’s Death Row since 1981. While steadfastly proclaiming his innocence, Williams has always been open about his gang involvement and became a major symbol in the fight against the death penalty. He wrote children’s books encouraging young people to steer clear of gangs and was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his anti-violence efforts.

Williams’ saga was even depicted in “Redemption: The Stan ‘Tookie’ Williams Story.” The 2004 made-for-television movie, starring Jamie Foxx, earned critical acclaim, including several NAACP Image Awards earlier this year.

His story has also made the topic of capital punishment a water cooler conversation for many black Americans, including grassroots figures to national leaders like NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon, who was very vocal in several “Save Tookie” rallies throughout California. Alice Huffman, president of the NAACP’s California’s state conference, said she and others calling for Williams’ clemency did all they could to prove that his life was worthy of sparing.

“Everyone who has spoken to him speaks very highly of him,” Huffman told For the last several weeks, Huffman has joined Gordon and other in numerous meetings and rallies, making an argument for clemency. She was pleasantly surprised at how many people were on their side.

“The Saturday after Thanksgiving, we had a room prepared for about 40 people and more than 120 showed up,” Huffman said, adding that the national office of the NAACP was a major force in the fight for Williams’ life.

“From that meeting, we organized our strategy and started a four-city tour to create awareness among the citizens of California about the worthiness of Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams’ life,” Huffman said. “I know we worked hard, and I know we proved that all kinds of people — black, white, educated and others — wanted him to remain on this earth.”

Huffman is against capital punishment in any case and, due to her work with the NAACP, she fully believes that discrimination and unfair sentences are very real.

“I work everyday with people who are being discriminated against. I really believe that a majority of African-Americans aren’t even aware of the discriminatory practices that exist in the criminal justice system,” Huffman said, crediting the system with, in many ways, wiping out the black population. For Williams, the redemptive strides he made were simply not enough to convince those opposed to his clemency, including Schwarzenegger, otherwise.

“You’ll find that people who were clamoring for his death don’t believe in redemption. They don’t believe that the criminal justice system is about rehabilitation,” Huffman said. “You’ve got a large amount of people who say that the best thing to do is an-eye-for-an-eye. But when a person redeems himself, he is a benefit to society. [Clemency] would help us win. We don’t lose anything by sparing his life.”

Alex Alonso, creator of, believed the only way for Schwarzenegger to go was the clemency route. In addition to the recent revelation that another witness is ready to refute the accusations against Williams, Alonso, like many others believe a post-conviction Williams was a good example for young people.

“Just the way he lived his life for the last 10 to 15 years was just pretty amazing,” Alonso told, adding that Williams was as good a candidate as any for clemency. However, Alonso couldn’t fault many blacks, especially those in violence-ridden areas, who were against clemency.

“There’s no doubt that a lot of blacks were in favor of his execution because they live in this community. They’ve seen the violence come in and destroy it,” said Alonso, himself a Los Angeles parent of one.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a Los Angeles-based columnist, was also calling for clemency for Williams. But it wasn’t based on race, Hutchinson told

“I’m simply not in favor of the death penalty. It wouldn’t make any difference whether it was Tookie Williams or the grand wizard of the KKK,” Hutchinson said, adding that he felt Schwarzenegger would deny the appeal all along.

“Governors generally don’t get involved in clemency because it can be a lose-lose situation,” Hutchinson said, adding that the actor-turned-politician was likely thinking about how granting Williams clemency would affect him in what is expected to be a hard-fought re-election bid next year.

“Governor Schwarzenegger is a conservative Republican, and California is a very conservative state,” Hutchinson said, even though Schwarzenegger has been known to be influenced by his wife, Maria Shriver, a well-known liberal Democrat. “He really doesn’t want this coming back to haunt him.”

While Schwarzenegger appears to be in the clear with his conservative base now, many wonder how Williams’ execution will play out in the streets from which he carried out his violent past. Many community leaders are calling for both gang and non-gang members to remain calm and not show their disappointment through violence. Former L.A. Police Chief Bernard Parks, now a member of the city council, openly stated that he fears the execution could spark civil unrest that erupted in Los Angeles following the 1992 acquittal of white police officers accused of beating Rodney King.

“There were a lot of people watching this, and they wanted to know if redemption is something that we in this country believe in,” Huffman said, echoing the concerns of people like rapper Snoop Dogg, himself a reformed gang member, who believe Williams’ death will prevent young people of hearing how important it is to avoid gang membership and the lifestyle associated with it.

“He developed a protocol for peace,” Huffman said of Williams. “We have thousands upon thousands of young people who’ve said they turned their lives around because of Tookie Williams.”

The message Williams’ execution sends is in fact a continuation of violence, Huffman said.

“What we’re sending now is the message that violence begets violence because capital punishment is essentially government violence,” she said. “I’m really hoping now that gang members will see this as a way to really learn a hard lesson and that those of us who are older need to make a way to include younger people in our society and let them know that we want to save them as much as we wanted to save Stanley “Tookie” Williams.”

stef Posted by on Dec 13 2005. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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