Editor's note: As of the evening of Mon., Dec. 12, the U.S. Supreme Court has now also refused to stay the execution of convicted killer and Crips gang founder Stanley Tookie Williams.
The Associated Press
San Francisco- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Monday refused to spare the life of Stanley Tookie Williams, the founder of the murderous Crips gang who awaited execution after midnight in a case that stirred debate over capital punishment and the possibility of redemption on death row.
Schwarzenegger was unswayed by pleas from Hollywood stars and petitions from more than 50,000 people who said that Williams had made amends during more than two decades in prison by writing a memoir and children's books about the dangers of gangs.
"After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find no justification for granting clemency," Schwarzenegger said, less than 12 hours before the execution. "The facts do not justify overturning the jury's verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case."
Schwarzenegger could have commuted the death sentence to life in prison without parole.
With a reprieve from the federal courts considered unlikely, Williams, 51, was set to die by injection at San Quentin State Prison early Tuesday for murdering four people in two 1979 holdups.
Williams' fate became one of the nation's biggest death-row cause celebres in decades.
Prosecutors and victims' advocates contended Williams was undeserving of clemency from the governor because he did not own up to his crimes and refused to inform on fellow gang members. They also argued that the Crips gang that Williams co-founded in Los Angeles in 1971 is responsible for hundreds of deaths, many of them in battles with the rival Bloods for turf and control of the drug trade.
Williams stood to become the 12th California condemned inmate executed since lawmakers reinstated the death penalty in 1977 after a brief hiatus.
Williams was condemned in 1981 for gunning down a clerk in a convenience store holdup and a mother, father and daughter in a motel robbery weeks later. Williams claimed he was innocent.
The last time a California governor granted clemency was in 1967, when Ronald Reagan spared a mentally infirm killer. Schwarzenegger -- a Republican who has come under fire from members of his own party as too accommodating to liberals -- rejected clemency twice before during his two years in office.
Just before the governor announced his decision on clemency, the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals denied Williams' request for a reprieve, saying among other things that there was no "clear and convincing evidence of actual innocence."
In his last-ditch appeal, Williams claimed that he should have been allowed to argue at his trial that someone else killed one of the four victims, and that shoddy forensics connected him to the other killings.
Williams was convicted of killing Yen-I Yang, 76, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, 63, and Yu-Chin Yang Lin, 43, at a Los Angeles motel the family owned, and Albert Owens, 26, a 7-Eleven clerk gunned down in Whittier.
Among the celebrities who took up Williams' cause were Jamie Foxx, who played the gang leader in a cable movie about Williams; rapper Snoop Dogg, himself a former Crip; Sister Helen Prejean, the nun depicted in "Dead Man Walking"; Bianca Jagger; and former "M..A..S..H" star Mike Farrell. During Williams' 24 years on death row, a Swiss legislator, college professors and others nominated him for the Nobel Prizes in peace and literature.
"If Stanley Williams does not merit clemency," defense attorney Peter Fleming Jr. asked, "what meaning does clemency retain in this state?"
The impending execution resulted in feverish preparations over the weekend by those on both sides of the debate, with the California Highway Patrol planning to tighten security outside the prison, where hundreds of protesters were expected.
A group of about three dozen death penalty protesters were joined by the Rev. Jesse Jackson as they marched across the Golden Gate Bridge after dawn Monday en route to the gates of San Quentin, where they were expected to rally with hundreds of people.
At least publicly, the person apparently least occupied with his fate seemed to be Williams himself.
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"Me fearing what I'm facing, what possible good is it going to do for me? How is that going to benefit me?" Williams said in a recent interview. "If it's my time to be executed, what's all the ranting and raving going to do?"