Witnessing the Execution of Stanley Tookie Williams
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
From NPR West, this is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.
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First, the lead. Convicted killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams died early this morning in the execution chamber at San Quentin prison with 2,000 death penalty opponents outside protesting and some people rallying to support his sentence. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger turned down his request for clemency yesterday in a statement that questioned the sincerity of his redemption. Judy Campbell is a reporter for member station KQED in San Francisco. She was one of the official media witnesses at the execution and she joins us from San Francisco.
Judy Campbell, welcome to DAY TO DAY. Describe the death chamber please for us and tell us who was there.
JUDY CAMPBELL reporting:
The death chamber is a very small glass unit. It doubles as the gas chamber, though this was a lethal injection. So it's very small. Holds a modified dental chair that Williams was calmly led in--he was calm, was led in and strapped down. There were 36 witnesses. Seventeen were media. Five were witnesses for Tookie Williams. He originally said he didn't want any witnesses, saying it was disgusting for a human to sit and watch another human die, but he did, possibly out of an appeal from Jesse Jackson, end up having witnesses. There were also five witnesses who represented the victims' families.
CHADWICK: I personally have never witnessed an execution. I can only imagine that the mood was grim.
CAMPBELL: Very. It was also tense. This is the second execution I've witnessed and it differed greatly from the first. His personality, Mr. Williams' personality, was very evident in this. He stared kind of defiantly at reporters at one point, holding an unwavering stare for about five seconds. He craned his neck back towards the victims' families. He spent a lot of time looking at his witnesses who seemed to be praying with them and one raised a fist, kind of defiantly, in what looked like a black power salute. In all, the mood was very somber, very quiet until the end when, after he was pronounced dead, people were starting to be led out of the viewing room. Some of his supporters in unison said, `The state of California has just killed an innocent man.' One of the victims--the stepmother of Albert Owens, one of the victims, who was 26 when he died, the stepmother started crying at that point and was comforted by another witness.
CHADWICK: Did Tookie Williams say anything?
CAMPBELL: He did. He seemed to say something in the chamber. The glass is thick. You couldn't hear. He spoke when they were trying to put the needle in, when the guards were trying to insert the needle which took a long time, almost 15 minutes, and he grimaced in what looked to be pain. And you could hear him angrily talking to the guards. He seem to be, you know, asking them why they couldn't get the needle in. He apparently made an official statement that was given to a friend of his earlier that day. That statement hasn't been released yet. He made nothing officially to the warden.
CHADWICK: Judy Campbell, a reporter from member station KQED in San Francisco and one of the official media witnesses at the execution of Stanley "Tookie" Williams earlier today, speaking with us from San Francisco.
Judy Campbell, thank you for joining us on DAY TO DAY.
CHADWICK: Thank you.
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