Stanley "Tookie" Williams has led a life so dramatic that Hollywood turned his autobiographical book into a 2004 made-for-TV movie: Redemption, starring Jamie Foxx. But Williams remains on Death Row, facing execution as early as this fall if appeals on his behalf fail.
From behind bars, Williams urges at-risk youth to reject his violent path of gangs and drugs:
20th Century Fox
Screen grab of a scene from Redemption starring Jamie Foxx.
20th Century Fox
Born and raised on the mean streets of south Los Angeles, Williams and a friend co-founded the notorious Crips street gang when he was just 13. "We performed mayhem and aggression throughout the city. We terrorized everybody. We made it a living hell...," he says today. "We made a mistake — we morphed into a monster."
Now 51, Williams sits in San Quentin prison in northern California, convicted of the 1979 killing of a convenience store worker during a robbery. He was also found guilty of shooting and killing a motel owner, his wife and daughter — crimes he says he did not commit.
Still, in the books he's written about those days, he admits that as a Crip and a drug addict, he was unapproachable, unreachable, unteachable and incorrigible. "I was miseducated on manhood. I thought that manhood constituted violence, aggression, womanizing," he says.
Once behind bars, Williams says he found his own path to redemption. He re-educated himself, reading everything from the dictionary to law books. And he began writing children's books — nine so far — and speaking out against gangs. He's made public apologies for creating the Crips and adopting the gangster lifestyle.
Those efforts earned Williams a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize, and may be a factor should Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger decide to grant him clemency. Williams could also appeal his original conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court.