[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----FLA., ARIZ., Md., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Dec 3 20:25:43 CST 2005
Chain Gang Charlie----Charlie Crist's efforts to have photos of Carlie
Brucia's body sealed were designed to endear himself to voters as he aims
for the Governor's Mansion.
Attorney General Charlie Crist should know better. As the state's chief
law enforcement officer he has a responsibility to keep his electioneering
for governor out of his office's legal judgments. But Crist has sought to
make political hay out of the highly charged debate over press access to
the evidentiary photos in the Carlie Brucia murder case. Acting on a plea
by Brucia's family, Crist tried mightily to seal those photos. While his
actions were emotionally appealing, they were not legally sound.
Barring access would seriously undermine the ability of the press and
public to scrutinize what goes on in a criminal proceeding. But Crist has
thrown the resources of his office behind a politically popular position.
The issue arose during the trial of Joseph Smith, now convicted for the
murder of 11-year-old Brucia. The trial court issued an order preventing
the public and media from examining a crime scene videotape and a number
of autopsy and other photos that had been admitted into evidence. A group
of print and television media outlets, including the Tampa Tribune but not
the St. Petersburg Times, challenged the order. The 2nd District Court of
Appeal ruled that any evidence relied upon by the state to convict Smith
had to be made available for viewing.
The court was careful to note that only the photos used during trial would
have to be made available and that the material could not be copied,
removed or published. It also limited the ruling to those media outlets
that brought suit. As the court stated, the issue is "whether the state
can rely upon secret evidence to obtain a conviction for a capital
offense." Clearly, the answer in a free society is no. The ruling should
have made the material available for inspection by all members of the
media and the public, not just the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. But it
provided as much consideration for Brucia's family as possible without
running afoul of constitutional imperatives.
Crist was not satisfied. He asked the Florida Supreme Court to enter the
case and when it declined, he sought an emergency order from U.S. Supreme
Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. There was no legal basis for the nation's
high court to intervene, and Kennedy rejected Crist's plea. Now Crist has
appealed to the full court.
These actions are reminiscent of the old Chain Gang Charlie, who as a
state senator made crime and punishment his signature issue. We want the
sensible Charlie back, the one who refused to be drawn into the Terri
Schiavo matter. When the state seeks to take away someone's liberty or
life, it is the right and responsibility of the press and public to ensure
a fair process. That role cannot be fulfilled without access to all of the
evidence. Any good lawyer understands this, but when a lawyer becomes a
politician it can be too easily forgotten.
(source: St Petersburg Times)
Arizona executions on hold
As the nation moves beyond its 1,000th execution since capital punishment
resumed in 1976, landmark legal battles have left Arizonas death chamber
unused for 5 years.
And it doesnt appear as if anyone will be executed soon in Arizona.
When the state puts its next person to death will depend on the 9th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, where 11 Arizona death row
inmates are awaiting rulings, some for as many as 9 years.
"Then they still get a chance to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court," said
assistant Arizona attorney general Kent Cattani, chief counsel over
Don Jay Miller, a Tucson man convicted of murdering an 18-year-old woman,
was the last person to be executed in Arizona on Nov. 8, 2000. At the
time, Arizona was ranked 9th nationally in the number of inmates executed
since 1976 with 22.
Shortly afterward, all Arizona death penalty appeals were put on hold
until June 2004, when the last of a number of landmark cases in federal
court was resolved, said Dale Baich, who is in charge of the Federal
Public Defenders Capital Habeas Unit.
The most significant of those was Ring v. Arizona, in which the U.S.
Supreme Court ruled that juries rather than judges should decide death
penalty cases, forcing the state to change its law.
Ring was decided in June 2002, but cases couldnt move forward because the
high court didnt say whether the ruling was retroactive.
Eighty-five death row inmates in Arizona and 25 in other states waited two
years before the Supreme Court said Ring wasnt retroactive.
And while no cases moved for those 4 years, federal courts have been
historically slow anyway, Cattani said.
A death row inmate gets a set of appeals in state courts and then moves
onto federal court to what are known as habeas corpus appeals.
The federal appeals process looks at whether there were any constitutional
mistakes at the state level.
The cases of 77 of Arizonas 108 condemned inmates are in federal court, 10
of them having been there more than 10 years, according to a chart
prepared by the Arizona Attorney Generals Office.
Those include Warren Summerlin, whose 20 years in federal court is the
longest for an Arizona death row inmate, and Robert Comer, who has spent 5
of 10 years in federal court trying to end his appeals and be executed.
"Rather than simply look at the numbers, you have to look at each case on
its own to figure out why its been pending in the court for a certain
length of time," Baich said.
Congress is now looking at limiting the ability to appeal in federal
court. Sen. Jon Kyl, RAriz., authored the Streamlined Procedures Act of
2005, which could come to a vote in the Judiciary Committee early next
year. A similar bill is moving through the House of Representatives.
"It would eliminate the jurisdiction of federal courts in all habeas
cases," Baich said. "So what would happen is a significant part of the
appellate process would be eliminated."
The bill would be a radical change to the system and be unfair, Baich
Cattani testified before Congress on Nov. 10, saying it is time to
reassess whether provisions enacted in 1996 to limit delay in federal
court are working.
In theory, federal appeals should take less time than the state appeals,
but research by a commission that reviewed Arizona's death penalty laws in
2001 found that appeals stayed in state courts an average of 6 years and
10 years in federal court. <> (source: East Valley Tribune)
New execution stirs memories----Rage, relief and grief from prominent case
The Romano family stood outside the old state penitentiary on East Madison
Street and chanted "Na, na, na, na, hey, hey, goodbye," as the hearse
carrying the body of Steven Howard Oken drove off into the night June 17,
Death penalty opponents who were corralled across the street considered
the celebration tasteless. But Fred A. Romano, the brother of one of the 3
women Oken sexually assaulted and killed in 1987, said that after waiting
for 17 years, he deserved some release.
"The burden has been lifted," he said that night.
Almost a year and a half later - as Maryland prepares to execute another
inmate - Romano says, "I really do feel better. I don't feel that rage
inside of me anymore."
The death warrant goes into effect Monday for Wesley Eugene Baker,
convicted in Baltimore County of shooting a grandmother during a robbery
in a mall parking lot.
In an interview this week, Romano said he is prepared to slip back into
the role of advocate, albeit a more measured one this time. He wrote a
letter to the governor and plans to hold a victim's vigil outside the
prison the night Baker is scheduled to be put to death.
For Oken's parents, his lawyers and the death penalty opponents involved
in his case, news of another execution has resurrected sorrowful memories.
"This just opens up all kinds of old wounds," Davida Oken, Steven Oken's
mother, said in a brief telephone interview this week. Those who know
Oken's parents say they are still grieving.
Rabbi Jacob Max counseled Oken the night of his death, witnessed his
execution and officiated his funeral. He said the Okens, whom he described
as a "wonderful family," rarely talk about what happened. "They have to
live with it," he said. "Of course justice had to be served, but it is
still a very painful thing for them."
Fred Warren Bennett, Oken's appellate attorney, who fought a furious legal
battle on Oken's behalf, was so depressed by Oken's execution that he said
he would never again take a capital murder case. But, five months ago, he
did just that, agreeing to represent convicted killer Jody Miles of the
"It's a lot of stress, but I'm back doing it," said Bennett, a lifelong
defense attorney and death penalty opponent. He and Michael E. Lawlor sat
on prison-made bleachers and watched their client put to death in a
ritualized, clinical procedure that took less than 9 minutes.
Now, Lawlor is one of Baker's attorneys. "I know what he's going through,"
Bennett said. "I know he's trying to do everything he can for his client."
Bennett's efforts to save Oken locked him in a battle with the Romanos,
who showed up at each of the numerous court hearings all across the state
in the weeks before the execution. At one point, as he left the state's
highest court after asking for his client's life to be spared, Bennett
tried to make peace.
He approached Betty Romano, whose 20-year-old daughter, Dawn Marie Garvin,
was assaulted and killed by Oken in her White Marsh apartment. The mother
looked up from her cigarette and shot the lawyer an icy stare.
Bennett persisted: "Mrs. Romano, I ... I want to tell you how sorry I am."
"Doesn't mean a word to me," she snapped.
Bennett retreated, mumbling that he was sorry he had tried to talk to her.
He turned back to hear Romano say: "You should be on that table with him."
The aggressive behavior of the Romanos, said Michael Stark, a death
penalty opponent, compounded Davida Oken's grief at losing her son.
"I think she is still traumatized by the way her entire family was
vilified and publicly attacked for standing by Steven," Stark said.
In the years leading to Oken's execution, Fred A. Romano, a truck driver
who lives in Harford County, evolved into a vocal and often blunt
proponent of the death penalty, commenting often that he'd like to kill
Oken himself and teaching his young children to say similar things.
When Oken's death warrant was signed in 2004, Romano put a countdown on
his Maryland pro-death-penalty Web site - a site that hasn't been updated
in months and that he said he will soon take down.
He became the face of murder victims, giving dozens of media interviews
and using a bullhorn the night of the execution to keep the crowd pumped
He says now that perhaps he came across as "too celebratory," but he says
he did it because of a promise that he had made to his sister. "I woke up
every morning for so many years thinking about it [the execution]. When is
it going to happen? Is it going to be postponed again?"
That changed instantly, he said, when word of a completed execution about
9:30 p.m. that night in June reached the Romano rally outside the prison.
A week later, Romano and his family put flowers on Dawn's grave and told
her they'd kept their promise that "justice would be served."
Romano said his constant thoughts of Oken have been replaced by memories
of his sister.
"Now, I think about Dawn," he said. "It's all good things now. There is no
Romano says he lost most of his youth to stress because of many rounds of
appeals that preceded Oken's execution, but he believes he and his whole
family breathe more easily now.
"I wish I could have those years of my life back," he said.
Romano said he and other family members will keep vigil outside the
downtown Baltimore prison if Baker is executed next week. Romano also sent
a letter Wednesday to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., urging him not to
commute Baker's sentence.
Baker was sentenced to death in 1992 for shooting Jane Tyson, a
49-year-old teacher's aide, during a robbery in front of 2 of her
grandchildren outside Westview Mall in Baltimore County.
In his letter, Romano wrote of the Tyson family: "I don't think they
realize how much relief they are going to have when this is finally over.
I can only hope they will find the same peace that my family and I have."
(source: The Baltimore Sun)
A death-penalty deluge?----More Californians than their fellow citizens
imagine could soon be executed, says Boalt capital-punishment specialist
In the 28 years since California reinstated the death penalty, 11 of its
condemned inmates have been executed. That's 11 too many for death-penalty
opponents -0 but too few, by the numbers, to have pushed the ultimate
punishment into the forefront of public consciousness, says Elisabeth
Semel, director of the Death Penalty Clinic at the School of Law.
With less than 1 execution per year on average, she says, "We're able to
think of them as isolated incidents, becoming extremely focused on an
execution before it occurs, whatever side we're taking." Once the
execution happens, however, "people don't need to think about it again for
another 12 to 18 months."
But the 3 potential state executions on the near horizon - of Stanley
"Tookie" Williams' on Dec. 12, followed by Clarence Ray Allen's on Jan. 17
and Michael Morales's in February, if authorities have their way are a
sign of what's to come, she predicts. "We're inevitably going to be facing
more executions more frequently."
An acting clinical professor at Boalt and a long-time practicing
criminal-defense lawyer, Semel says the California electorate's
"inevitable" appointment with the death penalty, and its attendant moral
questions, has been long in the making. According to the California
Department of Corrections the state has 647 condemned inmates, whose cases
are in various stages of the judicial review - more than any other state
in the nation.
In California, in particular, judicial review is a lengthy process,
"having to do with a chronic shortage of lawyers, more cases than the
California courts can possibly handle, and the complexity involved in the
review of these cases," Semel says. Following a death judgment, it
typically takes four to six years to appoint a lawyer for the automatic
appeal in state court, and even longer before a lawyer is appointed for
the habeas corpus appeal; subsequent reviews by the federal District
Court, the federal Court of Appeals, and even, on occasion, the U.S.
Supreme Court move more quickly.
Inevitably, however, death-penalty cases reach the end of the line, and
that is what is gradually happening in a significant number of California
cases, Semel says. "About 200 such cases, roughly one-third of the total,
have made their way into federal court; several are at the later stages of
review," she says. "We've never had this many cases in federal courts. I
don't think Californians have grappled with the prospect of putting 200
people to death, much less 647." (Nor, for that matter, have they
considered the additional number to be accommodated by an expansion of San
Quentin's death row by more than 100 beds, approved by the state in early
"We are at a time of re-examination about the death penalty," Semel notes.
"Polls certainly tell us that there is more doubt and mistrust about its
application than there has been in decades."
Boalt Hall's Death Penalty Clinic represents clients in capital
post-conviction proceedings in Alabama and California. It also prepares
briefs, petitions, and pre-trial motions, as in the case of Thomas
Miller-El, a Texas death-row inmate who was granted a new trial in June by
the U.S. Supreme Court.
The clinic has not been directly involved in the case of Stanley Williams,
the co-founder of the L.A.-based Crips gang (and later an anti-gang
spokesperson), whose pending execution has garnered international
attention. However, recent Boalt grad Lorien Redmond, who worked on an
Alabama death-penalty case while participating in the clinic, was
instrumental in persuading her new employer, the New York-based law firm
of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle, to take on Williams' clemency
petition on a pro bono basis. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has agreed to
hold a clemency hearing on Dec. 8.
With so much attention focused on Williams, Semel worries that Clarence
Ray Allen and Michael Morales "will get lost. Not to say that Williams is
not deserving of the attention. But I hope his case has a spillover
effect, to raise the broader questions."
According to Amnesty International, Texas is far and away the leader in
executions, with 355 since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court authorized
the resumption of capital punishment. (Of those, 152 occurred under Gov.
George W. Bush, who presided over more executions than any other governor
in U.S. history.) A Virginia execution scheduled for Nov. 30, but reversed
by a clemency ruling on Tuesday, would have brought the total number of
U.S. executions since that date to exactly 1,000.
(source: UC Berkeley News)
Reform Jewish Leader Reacts to 1,000th Execution ---- Pelavin: in our
continued practice of capital punishment, we diminish our nation.
In response to the 1000th execution since the death penalty was reinstated
in 1976, Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action
Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
Todays somber milestone is a tragic reminder of one of our countrys
greatest moral and social shortcomings. The execution of Kenneth Lee Boyd
early this morning reminds us of the 1000 times the government has taken a
Justice has long been a centerpiece of American values, beginning with our
belief in the principle of innocent until proven guilty, the use of juries
and the rights maintained by those accused of a crime. These values have
served as an example to other societies that have sought to emulate our
practices. Yet in our continued practice of capital punishment, we
diminish our nation.
In the face of studies that tell us of the racial and social biases
inherent in the death penalty and that the death penalty simply does not
work as a deterrent to crime, we turn a blind eye and continue to execute
the convicted. Over half of the inmates currently on death row are black
or Hispanic. Still more are poor and unable to afford adequate legal
representation during trial. In a nation that prides itself on liberty and
justice, it is an outrage that the underprivileged are forced to suffer
the ultimate penalty of death because of inadequate legal representation.
We should not condone a system that disproportionately sentences
minorities and the underprivileged to death.
Upon the exoneration of each death row inmate, 122 of whom have been
released from death row after evidence of their innocence emerged, we
remain stubborn in our application of capital punishment. As we remember
the 1000 lives that have been taken by the state, we question how many
could have been saved through better use of technology and DNA testing. We
question how many of these one thousand men and women were, in fact,
innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted.
As we consider the 1,000 executions over the last 32 years, we are
reminded of the Mishnahs teaching that a Sanhedrin, a Rabbinic high court,
that puts one person to death in 7 years is called destructive. What,
then, could we call our justice system, but unjust? In light of todays
sorrowful milestone, we renew our call for the abolition of the death
(source: Religious Action Center ---- The Religious Action Center of
Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism ,
whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5
million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis , whose
membership includes more than 1800 Reform rabbis)
Blood-feast; the celebration of Ritual Murder in America
There is no more heinous or morally indefensible crime than capital
punishment. Nor is there is any person, however monstrous, deserving of
execution at the hands of the state. We may never know the motives behind
the actions of many criminals, but we can fully grasp the culpability of
the state. For it is the state, through its legal machinations, that
calmly premeditates the murder of its own citizens.
How can this be considered punishment?
There is no corrective element, at all; just death and finality.
A society that is willing to intentionally kill one of its own people, is
a society that is willing to accept barbarism as it guiding principle.
Theres no middle ground on capital punishment. When one offers their moral
support to the practice, they are participating directly in the ritual
murder of another human being.
Two days ago, Kenneth Boyd became the 1,000th prisoner to be put to death
in the US since the death penalty was reinstated 30 years ago. His final
words were, "God bless everyone in here." Thus, Boyd's death becomes
little more than a grim milestone of America's commitment to savagery over
A recent Gallop poll indicates that 64% of Americans support the death
penalty, down from 80% in 1994. "But the figure of 64% falls to just 50%
when the alternative of life without parole is presented." ("US Turns
against Death Penalty, Andrew Buncombe)
For years, anti death penalty groups have disputed the evenhandedness of
capital punishment, which is overwhelming directed at the poor and people
of color. Now, with the widespread use of DNA a growing number of murder
convictions have been overturned by new evidence. "There have also been
122 cases of prisoners on death row being shown to be innocent." (Andrew
This has caused a shift in public attitudes towards capital punishment and
many people are becoming more sensitized to its inherent unfairness.
I believe that more people would reject the death penalty if the wording
of polling questions was simply changed to reflect the real meaning of
their support. Staunch death penalty advocates tend to rationalize their
support in terms of the evil of particularly shocking crime. They see it
as an appropriate payback for bad behavior. .
But, that, in fact, is not the question. The real question is whether or
not the state has the right to kill one of its own citizens. That is the
only question that should concern us.
Our model of state power is not simply based on what may or may not be
fair regarding the punishment for particular crimes. Rather, it is
grounded on a larger principle that protects the society at large from the
abuses of state power. If, for example, the question were raised in a
survey "Does the state have the right to kill one of its citizens," I
believe we would find the exact opposite result from the earlier poll.
This reflects the innate suspicion that people have of handing over too
much power to government.
Again, the nature of the crime makes no difference; it is never within the
purview of the state to kill a citizen. Never. That definitive act turns
the whole system of representative government on its head. Our government
is the offspring of theories that emerged during the Enlightenment; that
governments are established as a compromise of ones right to absolute
freedom to meet the security needs of the individual. In exchange, the
state becomes the guarantor of human and civil rights. This is what we
call the social contract.
This model exposes the true origins of the state and suggests the
parameters under which it may legitimately operate. And, although the
state may be an expression of the public will, it is never more than a
crude invention to assure ones safety in a potentially threatening
environment. Such a device has no authority beyond its limited powers to
protect and provide for its people.
To allow the state the absolute power over life and death is to elevate
its significance above those it is created to serve. Capital punishment is
a form state worship; elevating the authority of government above the
principles that legitimize its existence. It is the "cart before the
Whenever men are murdered by the state in the name of capital punishment;
it is the state that is glorified; it is the state that is deified; it is
the state that is victorious. And, it is the freedom of every individual
that is sacrificed.
(source: Mike Whitney, OpEdNews)
Williams Has One Last Chance -- Clemency
Reminders of his upcoming execution are everywhere, but Stanley Tookie
Williams doesn't like to talk about it.
Supporters rally outside the prison to spare his life. Critics, dismissing
his claims of reforming, lobby the governor to put him to death. Visitors
line up to speak with a man lauded for efforts to quell violence and
lambasted for founding one of the nation's most notorious street gangs.
Williams passes the defunct gas chamber on his way to greet politicians,
celebrities and journalists clamoring to meet with him during extended
visiting hours since his death warrant was signed.
Now 51, he's unlikely to see 52 with execution by lethal injection
scheduled Dec. 13.
"Of course I want to live," he says when pressed, overcoming his
reluctance to talk about his scheduled death as he makes a last-ditch
effort to save his own life by telling his story to strangers.
Poised and tranquil, Williams says he's not the same person who arrived at
death row 24 years ago hellbent on stirring trouble behind bars. He's not
the same man who co-founded the Crips and not the man convicted of blowing
four people away with a shotgun in 1979 during robberies that netted
nothing more than gas money.
"There is no part of me that existed then that exists now," says Williams,
who with his trim gray beard and rimless glasses looks far less menacing
than the musclebound defendant bursting out of his suit during trial.
He claims he has redeemed himself through a dozen years of good deeds:
writing books encouraging kids to stay out of gangs; making speeches by
phone to church, school and community groups about avoiding pitfalls that
lead to gangster life; creating a "peace protocol" that brought a truce
between rival gangs in New Jersey.
While he's been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and has become a
beacon of hope to troubled youths who see gangs and crime as their only
way to counteract racism and escape poverty, plenty of others remain
Crime victims and prison officials say he's a self-serving charlatan who
refuses to take responsibility for his crimes, rejects the opportunity to
help authorities put away other gang members and benefits from a
well-meaning, but misguided campaign to clean up his image.
As the state's highest-profile execution in a quarter century draws near,
both sides are vying to win over Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who has
scheduled a private clemency hearing in his office Dec. 8.
At the heart of the debate is whether Williams really has changed from the
thug who once fed a growing drug problem with PCP-soaked cigarettes, toted
a 12-gauge shotgun, and lifted weights to build enormous biceps.
Born in New Orleans in 1953, Williams had a 17-year-old mother and a
father who walked out before his first birthday, according to his memoir,
"Blue Rage, Black Redemption" published last year. When he was 6, he and
his mother rode a Greyhound bus to California and it wasn't long before he
was a regular at Central Juvenile Hall.
He admits he became a "megalomaniac ... conceited, indifferent." He beat
people, robbed them, even shot at them, but says he never stuck around
long enough to see if they lived or died. He didn't care.
Williams arrived at San Quentin's death row on April 20, 1981. He
continued his trouble-making ways during his early days in prison. "I gave
this place hell," he says.
As he began to educate himself and reflect on his life, he grew determined
First and most importantly, he says, he developed a conscience. He read
everything he could get his hands on -- the Bible, the dictionary, a
thesaurus. He studied languages, theology, philosophy. He struggled to
understand his past.
Remarkably, he says he taught himself to feel -- compassion, empathy. He
says he watched news reports about drive-by shootings and suddenly mourned
for the victims. He heard stories about children starving in Africa, and
sadness took away his own appetite. He said he was consumed with pain and
guilt "for the lives of all the Crips who had died, for the innocent black
lives hurt in the crossfire, for the decades of young lives ruined for a
By 1992, he was a changed man, he says. His courage, once based on
violence and indifference, now was based on faith and redemption, he says.
"The majority of the detractors and naysayers ... it's difficult for them
to recognize the redemption," he says. "They've been unable to stop
smoking or drinking or lose weight and they're looking at me being in San
Quentin and they say, 'This man is on death row convicted of killing 4
people, how can he be redeemed?' They can't believe that. They don't want
to believe that. They would feel lesser about themselves."
But to family members of one of his victims, the campaign to save Williams
distracts from the cold-blooded crimes he was convicted of while
terrorizing Los Angeles.
On Feb. 28, 1979, about 4 a.m., Williams and three friends got high on
their psychedelic smokes, took 2 cars, a 12-gauge shotgun and a
.22-caliber handgun to Pomona in search of a place to rob, according to
court documents. They ended up at a 7-Eleven where Albert Owens, 26, was
working the overnight shift, sweeping the parking lot.
The military veteran, a "redheaded, freckle-faced kid who had the biggest
smile you wanted to see," according to his older brother, Wayne, had
recently returned to California after a messy divorce to try to regain
custody of his 2 daughters.
"He really was absolutely turning his life around," Wayne Owens, 55, said
recently from his home in Olathe, Kan.
Albert Owens said, "Take everything you want," says the now-retired
prosecutor, Robert Martin, who remembers the case in detail.
Williams ordered Owens into a back room at gunpoint, shot out a security
monitor, then ordered, "Get down on your knees, (expletive)," and shot him
twice in the back, according to testimony. Williams "later laughed about
it as he was eating his hamburger," Martin says.
There were no witnesses other than accomplices.
Less than 2 weeks later, on March 11, Williams used his brawn to break
down the door at the Brookhaven Motel, ripping through 4 locks and
shattering the molding, according to a prosecutor.
Killed were Yen-I Yang, 76; his wife, Tsai-Shai Yang, 63, and their
visiting daughter, Yee-Chen Lin, 43. The Taiwanese immigrants were about
to sell the business because the neighborhood had become too rough, Martin
Again, there were no surviving witnesses. Three of Williams' friends --
all with criminal histories and motivation to lie, Williams says --
testified that he confessed to them. A ballistics expert linked a shotgun
shell at the motel to Williams' gun.
Williams maintains he's innocent despite several unsuccessful appeals.
His conviction took him off the street, but failed to halt the growth of
the Crips he had founded in 1971 when he and Raymond Washington, a high
school friend, formed a gang they called the Cribs. Drunken members
routinely mispronounced it as "Crips" and the misnomer stuck.
"There was no gang bigger or stronger, no gang tough enough to dethrone
us," Williams wrote in his memoir. "We lounged around, got loaded, gambled
and pursued young women for sexual conquests."
>From behind bars he watched as the neighborhood gang he helped form grew
into a nationwide, drug-dealing criminal organization responsible for
thousands of deaths. One of his two sons, Stanley Williams Jr., joined the
gang and is now serving time for 2nd-degree murder.
Prison officials said recently that they believe the elder Williams is
still involved in the gang, calling shots from the prison, though they
acknowledged they don't have hard evidence.
"A con always will say one thing to you while the whole time he has
another agenda," prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon said. "I'm concerned
that possibly this marketing that's going on ... leads the public to hear
the words, but not to see that sleight of hand."
The effort to save Williams is headed by Barbara Becnel, a former
journalist who helped him write a series of 8 books called "Tookie Speaks
Out" that are targeted to children in kindergarten through 4th grade about
the dangers of gangs. Williams wrote a few pages at a time, then dictated
them during 15-minute phone calls to Becnel.
They also collaborated on "Life in Prison," for older children. Proceeds
go to nonprofit agencies committed to helping troubled youth. He regularly
hears from children, teachers and parents who applaud his efforts.
He's also received broad backing in his quest for clemency. Supporters
include Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, actor Jamie
Foxx, who played Williams in "Redemption," a 2004 movie about the inmate's
life, rapper Snoop Dogg and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.
Williams' petition begs Schwarzenegger to see him as he is now, not as he
was in 1979.
"This is a petition which seeks to spare the life of one man who has
lifted himself up from the furthest depths, and whose redemption is a
beacon of hope to others," his lawyers wrote.
The Los Angeles district attorney has asked the governor not to halt the
execution, and crime victims have organized a campaign to write or call
the governor opposing mercy.
"There are a lot of people who would like the public to forget there was a
victim," said Albert Owens' stepmother, Lora Owens. "It's because it
wasn't their loved one."
For a man facing impending death, Williams seems remarkably calm. He says
he's never been quick to display emotion; spending more than half his life
behind bars may have sharpened his ability to hide his feelings.
He hardly resembles early photographs where he's posing, flaunting his
muscles -- cocksure, angry. He's still bulky, but trim. He's polite,
straightforward and speaks with a broad vocabulary. He wears his blue
prison-issued denim shirt neatly tucked in, buttoned all the way to his
neck. He hasn't altered his daily routine since his death warrant was
signed, awakening early to pray and exercise, then spending most of his
day working on a collection of essays and a book about girl gangs.
Relying on a network of people who have seen the good in his life,
Williams said his life is now in others' hands and he will accept whatever
fate comes his way.
"I haven't had a lot of joy in my life. But in here," he says, pointing to
his heart, "I'm happy. I am peaceful in here. I am joyful in here."
He bids farewell to a visitor before sticking his hands through a slot so
guards can handcuff him for the walk back to his cell -- a walk that leads
him past the old death chamber.
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