ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
And I'm Melissa Block.
In California, time is running out for convicted murderer and former gang leader Stanley "Tookie" Williams. The co-founder of the notorious Crips gang is scheduled to die by lethal injection on December 13th. Yesterday, Williams suffered a crucial setback when the California Supreme Court refused to block his execution. Now his fate is in the hands of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. As NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, Williams is reaching out to his supporters from death row.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO reporting:
Stanley "Tookie" Williams was a legend on the streets of LA even before he became the most high-profile inmate on California's death row. Williams co-founded the notorious Crips street gang, then turned anti-gang crusader and was nominated for multiple Nobel Prizes. Now the call for clemency has attracted an eclectic group of ex-gangbangers, death penalty opponents, the NAACP and several Hollywood celebrities, namely rapper Snoop Dogg, once a Crip himself...
SNOOP DOGG: What it do?
(Soundbite of laughter)
DEL BARCO: ...and actor Jamie Foxx, who portrayed Williams in the TV movie "Redemption."
Mr. JAMIE FOXX: December 13th is my birthday.
(Soundbite of audience reaction)
Mr. FOXX: So I'm not going to let it happen.
Unidentified Woman #1: All right!
Unidentified Man: That's right.
(Soundbite of applause)
DEL BARCO: Last night Foxx, and Snoop Dogg headlined a Tookie read-in event in Los Angeles. Two hundred children from after-school programs listened as the celebrities read from Williams' books. The message to the kids? Steer clear of gangs, guns and drugs. And as he urged the governor to spare Williams' life, Snoop Dogg repeated what others said about Tookie being a redeemed man.
SNOOP DOGG: You know, he's in a bad situation, you know, being locked down or whatnot. But like I say, there's so many people on the streets right now that are free that don't write books, that don't care about y'all, that don't give you kids nothing to look forward to, that don't try to give y'all nothing. And when you have somebody that's in that powerful position to do that, you have to commend that. And his voice needs to be heard, not executed.
(Soundbite of cheering and applause)
DEL BARCO: During the event, Tookie made a surprise call from death row. Jamie Foxx held up the cell phone so the crowd could hear.
Mr. FOXX: Stan, it's Jamie.
Mr. STANLEY "TOOKIE" WILLIAMS: Hello. How are you, my brother?
Mr. FOXX: I'm doing good, my brother.
Mr. WILLIAMS: Hey, I'm very appreciative for all of you being there today. I believe that regardless of whatever happens to me, whether I'm alive or executed, that all of you will remember me. And this isn't a goodbye 'cause the fact of the matter is I'm preparing for life, not death.
Unidentified Woman #2: That's right.
(Soundbite of applause)
DEL BARCO: Williams was convicted of murdering four people during two separate robberies in 1979, but he's maintained he's innocent and refuses to apologize for crimes he says he did not commit. Yesterday, Williams' lawyers failed to persuade the California Supreme Court to re-examine the forensic evidence and testimony that led to his convictions. But state attorney general spokesman Nathan Barankin says Williams is not yet out of legal options.
Mr. NATHAN BARANKIN (State Attorney General Spokesman): This was merely the first effort at trying to get a court interested in reversing what has been 25 years of consistently negative rulings for Mr. Williams. We expect to see more.
DEL BARCO: But as the execution date nears, Williams' life rests in the hands of a man who, like him, was also once a bodybuilder at LA's Muscle Beach, Arnold Schwarzenegger. The governor has agreed to a closed-door clemency meeting next week with Williams' lawyers and the victims' families. During a recent trip to China, reporters asked him what he might decide.
Governor ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (Republican, California): You know, it's never a fun thing to do, let me tell you. This is the kind of--the toughest things to do when you're governor, because you're dealing with someone's life and it's--when you have to make that decision. And so, you know, I dread that.
DEL BARCO: As Schwarzenegger wrestles with decision, supporters hope he follows the example of Virginia's governor, who just granted clemency to a death row inmate. But observers note that no California governor since Ronald Reagan has spared the life of a condemned prisoner. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News, Los Angeles.