Clemency for Ex-Crips Leader Williams Denied

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California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rejects a last-minute bid to spare the life of Stanley Tookie Williams. Shortly after the stroke of midnight, the convicted murderer and Crips co-founder is scheduled to die by lethal injection. Williams is spending his final hours on death row at San Quentin Prison.


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

In California, convicted murderer and ex-gang leader Stanley "Tookie" Williams has lost his bid to avoid execution. Today Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected Williams' request for clemency, clearing the way for his death just after midnight tonight. Williams was convicted of four shotgun murders in two separate robberies in 1979. He's always denied committing those killings. The governor's decision came shortly after a federal appeals court in San Francisco refused to issue a stay. It means that the man who co-founded the notorious Crips street gang is out of options and will die by lethal injection.

NORRIS: NPR's Mandalit del Barco joins us now from just outside the gates of San Quentin prison, where Williams is on death row.

Mandalit, Arnold Schwarzenegger heard from both sides in the Williams case last week. What reason did he give today for denying clemency?


Well, he said that--Governor Schwarzenegger said that after weighing the facts of the cases, going through the court records, that he could find no justification for sparing Tookie Williams' life, despite lawyers who had argued that, even at the last minute now--today and yesterday--that he had been framed by law enforcement and targeted for his gang involvement as opposed to the crimes which he says he never committed.

NORRIS: As we mentioned, you're outside San Quentin prison. This case has attracted a lot of attention. What's it like out there now?

DEL BARCO: Well, outside the prison gates here at San Quentin, the mass of media is here from around the country and the world. Reverend Jesse Jackson met with us, the reporters, and said he had spoken before with Stanley Williams, right before the news broke that he will be executed tonight. And Reverend Jackson told us that he's disappointed with the governor's decision, to say the very least, and like other supporters, he was hoping for mercy. And he said that killing Williams is senseless. He says he--that Williams should have been allowed to live out his life in prison, continuing to do his anti-gang work, so that--as a gang member and a co-founder of the Crips, he dodged many bullets. And now Tookie Williams says he's not afraid of death and that his faith is sustaining him.

NORRIS: Williams asked for clemency, but he never admitted to the murders back in 1979. What impact had that had on his bid for compassion?

DEL BARCO: Well, as he mentioned--the prosecutors and the victims' family and, also, Williams' critics say that if he truly was redeemed, then he should accept responsibility for the crimes. But, again, Tookie Williams says he will never apologize for crimes he did not commit, even if death is the price he must pay for telling the truth. He says that he was redeemed in prison.

NORRIS: Mandalit, what do we know, if anything, about how he's spending his final hours?

DEL BARCO: Well, Stanley Williams was moved to a cell closer to the death chamber, and he's being watched around the clock. Prison officials say that the precise procedures are in keeping with the somber event. But Tookie Williams has reportedly refused a last meal, and he says he does not want his family members or his friends to witness what he says is a sick and perverted spectacle. There'll be several media witnesses, though, and others watching as he's given the lethal injection.

NORRIS: Just quickly, some have expressed concern or even warnings that violence could break out if he's executed. What are authorities doing about that?

DEL BARCO: Well, authorities as well as church and community leaders in Los Angeles and in the San Francisco Bay area have been urging people not to overreact to the execution. And they remind folks that Tookie Williams' message is of non-violence, and to do otherwise would not honor his legacy.

NORRIS: NPR's Mandalit del Barco.

Thank you, Mandalit.

DEL BARCO: Thank you.

NORRIS: NPR's Mandalit del Barco reporting from just outside San Quentin prison.

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