[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----CALIFORNIA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Dec 11 01:16:59 CST 2005
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CONTACT: JLM PR, Inc. ----Jody L. Miller or Ellen Zoe Golden, 212-431-5227
Hip-Hop Summit Action Network Appeals to Governor Schwarzenegger to Spare
the Life of Stanley "Tookie" Williams
The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, the nation's largest coalition of
hip-hop artists and recording industry executives, today released the text
of an appeal written to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger by Russell Simmons
dated December 1, 2005, to spare the life of Stanley "Tookie" Williams.
"It's only three days before the scheduled execution of Tookie Williams
and we add our voices to the millions of people throughout the world who
believe that clemency is not only appropriate, but also the most moral,
humane and spiritual decision Governor Schwarzenegger could make,"
emphasized HSAN Chairman Russell Simmons.
"Governor Schwarzenegger has the weight of life and death in his hands in
regards to the pending execution of Tookie Williams," stated Dr. Benjamin
Chavis, President/CEO of HSAN. "We believe that the Governor should act to
spare Williams' life because capital punishment is a final and
irreversible act, while sparing Williams' life is an act of mercy in the
interest of redemption."
December 1, 2005
The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, California 95814
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:
May this letter find you and your family in the best of health and spirit.
I am writing to appeal urgently to you for your fair consideration to
grant clemency to Stanley Williams, who is scheduled to be executed in
California on December 13, 2005. I know that you are facing a very
difficult decision in this matter given the fact that the victims' family
members and many in law enforcement are in support of Williams' execution.
Our special friendship is important to me and I am only reaching out to
you directly about this issue because I believe that you are struggling to
do the right thing both in terms of the law and in the sight of God. Thank
you for agreeing to hold a private hearing on the Williams case with
lawyers from both the Los Angeles County Prosecutor and Williams' defense
My appeal is not limited to the legal issues that have been submitted to
you as outlined in the Petition for Clemency. I am confident that you have
received numerous legal opinions as to the merits of this case for your
timely and responsive intervention. I am, however, appealing on moral,
humane and spiritual grounds for you to use your good office to spare the
life of a man who has taken redemptive steps in his life while
incarcerated in the interests of making our society and world a safer and
It is by God's grace and love that individuals like Stanley Williams not
only turn their own lives around, but also are able to contribute
significantly to a deeper understanding of the oneness of humanity and to
give love and meaningful life-lessons back to his community, and in this
case to a community that desperately needs to overcome the decades-long
miseries of poverty and ignorance.
Notably, President Bush's Council on Service and Civic Participation
awarded Mr. Williams the President's Volunteer Service Award for his
leadership and worthwhile actions to encourage youth to avoid
self-destruction. As an award-winning author, Williams has been nominated
for the Nobel Peace and Literature prizes. In short, Williams' life should
be spared so that he can continue from prison to help youth in
impoverished communities develop constructively. The demands of justice
and mercy should be served in this case with your act of clemency.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
(source: Black PR Wire (Florida)
Politically weak Schwarzenegger weighs high-profile execution
When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was an action-movie hero, he relentlessly
shot, impaled, crushed, strangled, burned or exploded legions of
designated bad guys without so much as a twinge of regret - saying "hasta
la vista, baby" as he blew away one villain.
There are many narcissistic parallels between movies and politics, but one
big difference is that in the latter, life-and-death situations are real,
as he and Stanley Tookie Williams would attest.
As governor, Schwarzenegger may be Williams' last hope of avoiding a date
with the executioner Tuesday for shotgunning to death 4 people in Los
Angeles 26 years ago.
Prosecutors and lawyers for Williams, founder of the infamous Crips street
gang, made final pitches to Schwarzenegger Thursday at an hourlong private
clemency hearing, and the governor is expected to announce his decision
Superficially, the odds against clemency appear to be impossibly heavy.
No governor has commuted a death sentence since Ronald Reagan did it
nearly 40 years ago, and Schwarzenegger denied clemency in 2 other cases.
Williams, moreover, has never admitted that he committed the 1979
The Williams case, however, has generated much more than the usual
attention because of his street gang background and, more importantly,
because he has since preached an anti-gang message.
He has become a symbol of redemption for show business liberals such as
actor Jamie Foxx, who portrayed him in a television movie.
"Don't kill this guy. Don't kill him," Foxx implored Schwarzenegger after
meeting with Williams at San Quentin state prison, where he is scheduled
to die Tuesday, adding, "We've got our fingers crossed."
By the same token, Williams has also become a symbol for those who say
that a post-conviction conversion is not enough to warrant clemency, and
that sparing him would dishonor his victims, hard working people who
happened to be there when he robbed a motel and a convenience store.
"The evidence in this case is truly overwhelming, and the murders were
senseless and very brutal, and Mr. Williams should pay the ultimate
penalty for his crimes," prosecutor John Monaghan told reporters after
talking to Schwarzenegger.
And then there are the politics of capital punishment and the Williams
Schwarzenegger's aides insist that he will not allow politics to color his
decision, but whatever he does will, inevitably, have an effect,
especially since the case reaches him at a critical juncture in his
political career - just after suffering a major rejection at the polls,
and just as he attempts to rebuild his political stature.
Couldn't Schwarzenegger spare Williams, some are speculating, and then
seek re-election as an independent, forging a winning coalition of
moderate Republicans, centrist independents and Democrats?
The political arithmetic of California doesn't indicate that a 3-way
contest would work for him. For one thing, Californians support capital
punishment by a roughly 2-1 margin, with opposition pretty much confined
to liberal Democrats, so commuting Williams' sentence would probably lose
him more voters than it would gain.
The political reality is that to win next year Schwarzenegger needs to
have a motivated and united Republican base and then attract enough
independents and disaffected Democrats to reach beyond 50 %.
And Schwarzenegger's GOP base is already softened by adverse conservative
reaction to his choice of Susan Kennedy, a longtime Democratic Party
activist, as his chief of staff.
The move apparently is Schwarzenegger's effort to shed the right-wing
label that was pasted to him in the just-concluded ballot measure campaign
and return to the bipartisan image that had attracted independents and
But conservative radio talk shows, op-ed pages and Internet blogs are full
of anguish over Kennedy and complaints that Schwarzenegger is selling out
Were he to grant clemency to Williams, it would widen that rupture even
more, probably to the breaking point.
>From a purely political standpoint, therefore, sparing Williams would be a
loser for Schwarzenegger - assuming, of course, that he still intends to
run for a 2nd term.
(source: Inside Bay Area)
Death row clash----KFI's "John and Ken" become lightning rods in the
Stanley Tookie Williams debate.
Tune in to the afternoon "John and Ken Show" on talk radio's KFI-AM (640)
and you get a highly personalized take on Stanley Tookie Williams and
those who are lobbying for the commutation of his death sentence. NAACP
President Bruce S. Gordon is "a lunatic." Los Angeles
journalist/progressive political advocate Jasmyne Cannick is a "black
racist" and a "crackpot activist trying to make a name for herself."
Williams himself? A conman in a murderer's prison jumpsuit.
As the calendar flips quickly to Williams' scheduled execution early
Tuesday morning, the former Crip has become a cause celebre for talk radio
hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou, who have been devoting the 5 o'clock
hour of their 3-to-7 p.m. show to their "Tookie Must Die for Murdering
Four Innocent People" campaign - announced with 4 gunshots symbolizing
Williams, who has exhausted his legal appeals and has petitioned Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger for clemency based on his anti-gang work from death
row, would be the 12th man to be executed in California since a 1978
ballot initiative reinstated the death penalty. Compared with the earlier
executions, the Williams case, with its colliding moral and social issues,
has taken an unusual hold on the public's interest - and become daily
grist for Kobylt and Chiampou.
Their broadcasts have drawn outrage from those who perceive whispers of
racism coursing through radio dialogues that have included one of the
hosts reading Williams' co-written "Gangs and Drugs" book in an affected
street accent, mocking the speech of some of Williams' African American
"They're shock jocks," says Cannick, who, through the Urban Policy
Roundtable, filed a complaint against the Clear Channel-owned station with
the Federal Communications Commission two weeks ago over the "Tookie Must
Die" hour. "What 'John and Ken' are doing is particularly egregious at
In an interview Thursday, Kobylt said the campaign seeks to expose what he
and Chiampou see as falsehoods spread by Williams' supporters over the
nature of the killings and what transpired during the trial. According to
Arbirtron ratings, their program is the top-rated afternoon-drive talk
show in Los Angeles, tied for third overall in a field led by
Spanish-language KXOL-FM ("Latino 96.3") and dominated by music-format
"The pro-Tookie side had put together such a powerful mythology that we
thought we had to do something that would dramatically [draw] people's
attention to the truth of the case," Kobylt says. "It's not just 2 yahoos
screaming, 'Fry him!'"
Critics say "The John and Ken Show" has added little to the public debate
over the Williams case, which lies at the intriguing intersection of
personal belief in the death penalty and in an individual's capacity for
"The best stories often aren't about good versus evil, but about one good
versus another, irreconcilable good," says Martin Kaplan, director of the
Norman Lear Center and associate dean for programs and planning at the USC
Annenberg School for Communication. "In this case, there's the good of
retribution versus the good of redemption. Which is more important: the
lesson of criminal deterrence or the lesson of personal reformation? Add
to that the issue of sincerity, which everyone has an opinion about - has
he really changed, or is it an act? - and the case is impossible to
The case also touches on such nettlesome issues as the relative weights of
social good and private retribution; the right of a state to kill its
constituents; personal faith that government can get something - the death
penalty - right amid general skepticism about bureaucratic efficiency; and
pervasive cynicism, particularly among minorities, about how American
justice is arrived at in the first place.
Little of that gets explored on "The John and Ken Show." Instead,
listeners get interviews with people who mostly agree with the hosts that
Williams should be executed, gory and emotion-churning details about the
killings, and a steady patter of mockery and ad hominem attacks on those
"I don't think it contributes to any thoughtful discussions on the
issues," says Franklin Gilliam, founding director of UCLA's Center for
Communications and Community.
What it does do, he says, is unleash personal views about race that might
otherwise go unexpressed, allowing some venting under the guise of
"It is sort of indicative of the corrosive state of American race
relations," says Gilliam, who is also a UCLA political science professor.
"One of the reasons there is such a piling on and such delight in this is
that many people feel stifled to express their views on race, and this
allows them to do it in the context of a case where the opposing view is
to defend a gangbanger and convicted murderer...."
Co-host Kobylt has said on the air that the hosts have also targeted Scott
Peterson, who is white, and convicted child-killers David Westerfield and
Alejandro Avila - Westerfield is white and Avila Latino - which he cites
as proof that they aren't motivated by race.
The show focuses not on the Tookie Williams of today but on the Williams
who was convicted of killing 4 people during two holdups in February and
"We've gone through in excruciating details what Tookie really did" to
draw the death penalty in the first place, Kobylt says, while demanding
tangible proof that Williams - who still proclaims his innocence - has
actually undergone some sort of personal redemption.
"I don't know how he's redeemed," Kobylt says. "How does writing books
make up for the loss of the 4 people who were brutally shotgunned? He's
never even admitted to the crime and said he's sorry."
Kobylt says the hosts don't pretend to offer balanced coverage. "What we
do is get all the information we can, like a journalist would, but then
take it a step further and come up with a judgment," Kobylt says.
And a little controversy rarely hurts ratings.
"The purpose of talk radio is to sell your eardrums to advertisers,"
Kaplan says. "It's a win-win from the point of view of the corporations
that put this content on the air in order to attract listeners and sell
But it's not a "win-win" for everyone.
"It's not a particularly good thing," Kaplan says, "if you care about
civil discourse and reasoned discussion about contentious issues."
Every Execution Detail Prescribed----Inmate movements, visitor rules, the
mix of chemicals, the number of syringes: Nothing is left to chance.
Wheels have started turning.
Barring clemency from the governor or a last-minute stay, Stanley Tookie
Williams will be expected to walk on his own to the death chamber Monday
at San Quentin State Prison.
If all goes according to procedure, Williams will not struggle as prison
officers strap him to the injection table, connect the monitors that will
record the final beats of his heart and insert the needles through which
lethal chemicals will flow into his arms, once massive from lifting
The death chamber will be equipped with 12 rolls of adhesive tape, 20
syringes, 10 needles, 15 tubes of varying sizes, four bags of saline
solution, scissors, 6 tourniquets, two boxes of surgical gloves and 1 box
each of surgical masks and alcohol wipes. There will be handcuffs and leg
Nothing is left to chance. The choreography has been refined over the
course of 11 executions at San Quentin since 1992 and hundreds before
that. The smallest detail - including the dose and combination of
chemicals that will sedate Williams, paralyze him and cause his death is
set forth in a 43-page document, San Quentin Operational Procedure No.
Indeed, as the governor ponders clemency and as final appeals are readied,
the steps laid out in Procedure 770 already are being taken. The long walk
it prescribes for Williams - co-founder of the Crips street gang and
convicted murderer of 4 people - began Oct. 26, when acting Warden J.D.
Stokes appeared at his cell and read him the execution warrant.
Since that day, prison officials have been dismantling the life that
Williams has known since he arrived on death row in 1981, and seeking to
desensitize him to his impending death. The prison chaplain has visited
Williams to "assess his spiritual and emotional well-being," as the rules
dictate, and his "attitudes or thoughts on death and dying."
Williams was moved, in shackles, to a cellblock at the north end of the
turn-of-the-century prison by San Francisco Bay. San Quentin houses 649
condemned inmates, but the 68 in "North Seg" - the original death row -
have, in some ways, the best location. Cells are larger than most, inmates
have their own exercise yard, and they can mingle on the open tier.
A team of officers began watching Williams around the clock Thursday,
logging his activity at 15-minute intervals. Unusual behavior must be
reported to the warden.
In 1967, Aaron Mitchell, condemned for the murder of a Sacramento police
officer, ranted that he was Jesus Christ and slit his wrists on the night
before his execution.
With his life perhaps measured in days, Williams does get some privileges.
He can receive more visitors than usual. Celebrities, friends and
reporters have come calling.
"The inmate and the visitor(s) may briefly embrace or shake hands at the
beginning and end of the visit. No other physical contact will be
allowed," Procedure 770 says.
Williams' lawyers have additional access but are limited to bringing "one
pen or pencil, one note pad, necessary legal materials." There will be
"constant visual observation" by guards.
On the 3rd day before an execution - today - the chamber will be closed to
anyone not cleared by the warden. The lieutenant in charge of the chamber
controls the keys.
The chamber is in a self-contained unit at San Quentin. It has two holding
cells, in case 2 executions are scheduled for the same day. There is an
officers' area and a place for witnesses to stand. The unit is cleaned and
On Sunday, the lieutenant must inventory the equipment and chemicals.
Outdated items must be replaced immediately.
On Monday, the 5,500 inmates at San Quentin will stay locked in their
It falls to prison officers to carry out the ultimate punishment, and they
enlist the help of the condemned. "Our process begins with us interacting
with the inmate," said Lt. Vernell Crittendon, a San Quentin officer who
has witnessed all executions since 1992.
The prison staff has no fewer than 40 conversations with the condemned
inmate, he said. The prison wants to ensure that nothing comes as a
"There is constant contact," Crittendon said. "All subjects are covered.
All are focused around the demise of the individual."
Robert Johnson, professor of justice, law and society at American
University in Washington D.C., said a condemned prisoner thinks about
whether the death "will be a dignified one or undignified."
"Cooperation, almost collusion, allows [prisoners] the sense of dignity,"
said Johnson, author of "Death Work, a Study of the Modern Execution
For the most part, executions since 1992 have gone as planned, according
to Crittendon, an accomplishment he attributes to "the preparation of the
staff and the preparation of the inmate."
So far, Williams "has not agreed to be a part of any of the normal
procedures," said Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation spokesman
Todd Slosek. The prisoner declined, for example, to specify whether he
wanted to be executed by gas or injection. The default method is
injection, Slosek said.
On Thursday, when procedure dictated that Williams' belongings, including
a toothbrush, be taken from his cell, he was "upset," according to Slosek.
Officers will return the items if he requests them, but he must give each
back when he's done with it.
Removal of such objects is "a security issue," Slosek said.
Barbara Becnel, Williams' close friend and confidant, said it's a question
of dignity; he must even give up his bedding when he wakes in the morning.
And when she visited him Thursday, he was shackled, unlike on past visits.
Becnel said the prison has "created a more harsh reality for Stanley
On Monday, one member of the execution team - whose identities remain
secret under Procedure 770 - will take possession of the drugs needed to
perform it, until the substances are needed or returned unused.
Officers will test the phone lines that run from the execution chamber to
the California Supreme Court and the state attorney general's office.
That's in case a stay is granted, as it was in 1992, after Robert Alton
Harris, the 1st person executed in California after a 25-year gap, had
been strapped in the gas chamber.
On Monday, an escort team will strip-search and shackle the prisoner in
his cell. Then "the inmate, wearing only underwear, is escorted to the
holding cell, where he is retained pending an unclothed body search, which
includes a metal detector scan," says Procedure 770.
The prisoner receives new clothes: undershirt, shorts, socks, blue jeans,
blue shirt and canvas slippers. Once clothed and placed back in
restraints, the inmate is walked to the elevator and rides down 6 tiers,
to the death-watch cell.
The cell has a bed and mattress, blanket, pillow, heater, radio,
television, 3 sets of state-issued clothes, towels and a chess and
checkers set. A lieutenant will tell the inmate that dinner is served at 6
p.m., and introduces the sergeant and 2 officers who will stand watch
throughout Monday evening.
Valium or another relaxant will be available if the inmate requests it and
health authorities approve.
The condemned inmate is also allowed "reasonable last requests," including
special food and a choice of radio or television programs. Some inmates
refuse last meals; Williams had not ordered one as of Friday.
Robert Lee Massie, executed in 2001, requested well-done fried oysters,
french fries, two vanilla milkshakes and soft drinks. Harris' 1992 meal
included Domino's pizza, KFC chicken and Pepsi.
2 hours before the execution - scheduled for one minute past midnight -
the injection team will check that supplies are in place. An hour before
the execution, the team readies the tubes and needles.
Visits to Williams will have ended, but the inmate's attorney can call,
and a spiritual advisor, if Williams wants one, can stay with him until 45
minutes before the execution.
The warden will arrive, speak briefly with Williams - perhaps hearing his
last words - and direct that witnesses take their places.
There is space for 50 witnesses, whose identities the prison does not
reveal. Among them may be 5 witnesses and 2 spiritual advisors chosen by
the inmate, victims' family members and reporters. Williams has not
requested that any of his own family members or close friends be permitted
to witness his execution, should it occur.
If it does, Williams will walk to the death chamber once witnesses are in
place. The execution team will strap him to a gurney and connect him
intravenously to 2 bags of saline solution. No member of the San Quentin
staff may address team members by name or ask them anything that would
require an oral response.
After a final time check, Warden Steven Ornoski will order that the flow
of saline cease and be replaced with lethal agents: first, the sedative
sodium pentothal, then potassium chloride to paralyze Williams and,
finally, pancuronium bromide to stop his heart.
The identity of the person who has inserted the poison will not be
revealed. The infusion will continue until the prison doctor pronounces
Williams dead. The execution chamber will be shut with a curtain.
"The body shall be removed with care and dignity and placed in a body
bag," says Procedure 770. "The chamber should then be cleaned thoroughly."
Officials Focus on Williams Decision----Governor is reviewing material as
L.A. council members call for peaceful reaction to whatever he decides in
plea for clemency.
On the eve of a life-or-death decision, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said
Friday that he is staying up late reading background material on Stanley
Tookie Williams, who will die by lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday
unless the governor intervenes.
Schwarzenegger offered a rare glimpse into his thinking on the case at a
news conference in the Capitol, saying that the choice he faces
underscores the job's dizzying responsibilities.
On the same day that he enthusiastically announced the appointment of
Carol A. Corrigan as a state Supreme Court justice, Schwarzenegger said he
was also agonizing over whether to spare Williams' life.
"That's just part of being governor, is to make those kinds of decisions,"
he said. "And there are always in this job wonderful moments like today.
This is a wonderful moment, and I love this moment. I told Carol we should
take a picture in front of the Christmas tree, because it's that kind of a
He added: "But then again you have a terrible situation where you have to
make a decision on that, on the Tookie Williams thing. Yes, it is very
tough to do those things."
Williams, a four-time convicted murderer and co-founder of the Crips
street gang, would become the 12th man executed in the state since 1978.
Schwarzenegger heard presentations from Williams' attorneys and Los
Angeles County prosecutors Thursday about whether to grant Williams
He said he is immersing himself in the case - even as his administration
makes a series of high-profile judicial and staff appointments.
Schwarzenegger said he is keeping an open mind on Williams' fate.
"I am looking, studying the whole thing, reading a lot - last night until
11 o'clock, almost to midnight - and I will be reading and doing all the
research on it so we make the right decision," the governor said.
He did not specify when he would announce his decision.
In the meantime, four members of the City Council urged Friday that Los
Angeles residents remain calm after Schwarzenegger makes his decision.
In a City Hall news conference, council members Bernard C. Parks, Jan
Perry, Bill Rosendahl and Herb Wesson also said that they have asked
clergy members throughout the area to talk about the case with
parishioners this weekend. They also asked clergy members to open their
churches Monday and Tuesday to serve as a place where the community can
gather and discuss the Williams case.
"We're not here to talk about anyone's personal beliefs about the death
penalty," Parks said. "We're here for a specific reason; we believe in
freedom of speech and the ability for the community to get out and
demonstrate. We all strongly believe it should be done legally and
properly and we're concerned that those who have strong opinions one way
or the other don't jeopardize themselves or the community while expressing
Parks, Perry and Wesson represent the three districts that cover most of
South Los Angeles. There have been intermittent gang problems over the
years in some parts of the Westside district represented by Rosendahl.
Rosendahl, Perry and Wesson have taken public stances against the death
penalty and all three briefly voiced that view Friday. All 3, however,
insisted that Angelenos must avert the temptation to resort to violence
that destroyed large swaths of Los Angeles in riots in 1965 and 1992.
"Violence does not need to beget violence," Rosendahl said.
"To those who believe in redemption, they should remember for the past 13
years that Mr. Williams has been talking about peace and not violence,"
Wesson said. "I think the biggest respect they could pay to him is that
regardless what happens, if it doesn't come down the way they want, they
should be respectful to the way that he's lived his life the last 13
Local officials also said that they had heard some rumblings that violent
demonstrations could occur if Williams is executed.
"I don't think it's hard to imagine that in this context there would be
individuals in certain communities who would say that they expect
violence," said Robin Toma, the executive director of the Los Angeles
County Commission on Human Relations.
"What we picked up is enough to make us believe there will be an attempt
in some isolated places for a violent response to what occurs," Toma
added. "If you think about that, it's totally logical. What we have here
is an individual who in a sense is a representative for many gangs,
although he is clearly no longer a gang member and he is preaching a
completely different message. The gangs may not necessarily understand
that message well or take it the same way - there are many opportunists in
the community who will look for a reason to be violent."
(source for all: Los Angeles Times)
South Central's hope: clemency for Williams ----For residents of
gang-ravaged area, debate on founder of Crips centers on transformation
In the heart of South Central Los Angeles, a place so immersed in the gang
lifestyle that even the schools are affiliated with either the Crips or
the Bloods, Shiloh Badili paints.
The 52-year-old muralist, like many others in this impoverished flatland,
knows what it is like to mourn a relative killed by what he calls "the
He also knows, as everybody here knows, that Stanley Tookie Williams, the
man scheduled to be executed Tuesday morning at San Quentin State Prison,
played a pivotal role in plunging the neighborhood down that dark path
when he started the Crips gang 35 years ago.
Badili, nevertheless, believes that Williams' life should be spared. He
believes it, he said, for the same reason he scrapes together his pennies
to purchase paint and bathe vacant storefronts and buildings with colorful
"Just like that mural is re-awakening the neighborhood, turning something
bad into something good, Tookie is using his incarceration time that
usually makes people miserable to make life better for others," Badili
said. "Commuting his sentence could be the good thing that allows good to
blossom here in South Central."
Badili speaks, generally, for many people in South Central Los Angeles,
where the plight of Williams is on everybody's mind. An informal
street-corner survey by The Chronicle found people sympathetic to the
families of Williams' victims but no one favoring his execution. Instead,
"spare Tookie" is the refrain on the streets and in the liquor stores,
beauty salons and churches.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has said he will issue a decision on clemency
The Williams case has become a cause, like Rodney King, whose beating by
police in 1992 sparked widespread riots in Los Angeles. The people are at
once full of hope and afraid that if Williams is executed, the same thing
will happen in South Central that happened in the King case.
"If they kill him, there is going to be a riot," said hair stylist Shelton
Carter, 43, as he stood at the checkout counter of the West-Vern Liquor &
Deli store in an area known as the "Rolling 40s" or "40 Crips," gang lingo
that has been adopted even by the police. "I know that he was wrong, but
he wrote books and has taken up the cause of stopping gang violence. How
is he going to do that if he is dead?"
Williams, convicted of murdering 4 people in 1979, was widely feared
inside and outside prison until he renounced gangs. Over the past decade,
he has crusaded against gangs, has written 8 children's books opposing the
gang life, has brokered truces between rival groups and has been nominated
for several literary awards.
He denies he committed the murders, and many people in his former stomping
grounds believe him. There is, and has been at least since Rodney King,
rampant suspicion of law enforcement and the justice system in South
Central, where police and persecution are considered virtual synonyms.
His case is personal even for residents of his old neighborhood who
believe he is guilty, because they have seen the same poverty, lack of
education and opportunity that he did. Their support for clemency is, they
say, a belief in the redemptive power, and value, of penance, which they
believe should account for something.
Brenda White, a 49-year-old employee at a fashionable clothing store at
the corner of West Vernon and South Western avenues near Williams'
childhood home, said she believes that people can change, that while some
mistakes cannot be forgiven, all lives can be redeemed.
"If they put prisoners in there and they reform, that's what it is all
about," said White, who knew Williams when she was young and thought he
was a "nice" guy. "I believe in the death penalty, but people who change
their lives for the better should get a second chance."
White said she struggles every day trying to keep her 15-year-old son out
of gangs. She gets down on her knees and prays when he leaves for school.
"I am conflicted in a way because Tookie should never have gotten the
gangs started in the first place," she said. "But what he says now might
make a difference -- it might save other lives. That should play a part in
the clemency decision, or else what sense is there in it?"
There are no illusions in South Central about how much of a problem gangs
are in Los Angeles. The Crips, who outnumber the Bloods by almost 2 to 1,
have as many as 30,000 members, compared to 2,000 at most during Williams'
time, and the 2 gangs have spread to many other cities, according to gang
There are so many different Crips offshoots that the various groups have
split the city into what they call "sets," regions that they control. Drug
dealing is rampant, drive-by shootings are common and citizens, business
owners and even politicians are targets of intimidation.
The Crips gang formed as a kind of community watchdog group in 1971 after
the demise of the Black Panthers. Originally called "Avenue of the Crib,"
the name was shortened to Cribs and later Crips after it was repeatedly
mispronounced, according to Donald Bakeer, the author of "South Central LA
Crips," the definitive book on gang life between 1971 and 1986.
Williams founded the "West Side Crips" in South Central, the name an
indication that their territory was west of the Harbor Freeway. A man
named Raymond Washington founded the "East Side Crips," Bakeer said. He
was shot dead in 1979.
The black student union at UCLA wrote a constitution for the Crips in the
1970s, defining the name as meaning "Community Revolution in Progress."
The revolution that occurred was a great deal more devastating to the
community than the students ever dreamed, and unfortunately, Bakeer said,
it is still in progress.
"They were always violent, and Tookie had his fingerprints on lots of
murders," said Bakeer, who was a teacher at Williams' former high school.
"But the real holocaust is the thousands who have been killed by Crips in
South Central L.A. and who are still being killed. As a school teacher,
I've known over 100 people who've been killed by Crips. It is a constant
Still, Bakeer said, he supports clemency, not because he feels anything
for Williams personally but because of the service he can be to young
people from behind bars.
"He discovered what I discovered from teaching in the schools in South
Central that the solution is literacy," Bakeer said. "When boys can't
read, they have no chance. That's why I want Tookie to stay alive. He is
the only one writing to this segment of African American society."
Former Crips member Tommie "T-top" Rivers spent 10 years in prison for
gang-related crimes before realizing how ruinous the lifestyle was for him
and the community. At 36, he now runs a non-profit dedicated to helping
gang members change their ways. He believes the fight against the gang
lifestyle can only be won if former gang members are on the front lines.
"It is imperative to stop it, and it can be stopped," Rivers said. "Tookie
is a vital part of that effort. Who better to help stop it than the person
who started it? I'm a living example of how second chances can work."
What is at stake, said the Rev. Lewis Logan, the pastor at Bethel AME
church, in the middle of gang territory, is hope for the many people who
have taken wrong turns in life.
"You have an issue where hopelessness drives people to destroy themselves
and what's around them," said Logan, who has been vigorously campaigning
for clemency. "Tookie is seen in this community as a victim of the system,
and now it can be argued he has turned his life around. That is the human
experience. Everybody, in their own way, goes through that process of
redemption. That's why the people can relate to him."
Badili said he understands how people, especially relatives of the victims
Williams was convicted of killing, would want revenge.
"I feel empathy for the family members because I know what it feels like
to have a loved one taken from you," he said. "But if we put Tookie to
death, it would be saying to people that, no matter how good you become in
prison, it doesn't matter. You are still going to die."
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
City leaders urge peace if Williams dies ---- Some fear Los Angeles could
see a repeat of 1992 riots
Community leaders Friday called for peace in the city if convicted killer
and Crips gang co-founder Stanley Tookie Williams is put to death next
week as scheduled.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger heard arguments Thursday from Williams' lawyers
seeking to spare his life but hasn't said if he will grant clemency to the
death row inmate condemned for the 1979 killing of 4 people.
Schwarzenegger said Friday he expects to announce his decision "soon."
Williams' supporters, from political leaders to the rapper Snoop Dogg, say
Williams has turned his life around and become a positive influence in
fighting gang violence through his writing. To execute him now, they say,
would take away one of the most effective voices urging young people to
steer clear of gangs.
Williams, 51, is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday by lethal
injection at San Quentin State Prison.
On Friday, 4 City Council members urged religious leaders to open their
churches to those upset by the case.
Though community opinions about Williams vary, even a small group could
provoke widespread civil unrest, said Councilman Bernard Parks, a former
police chief. Parks alluded to the 1992 Los Angeles riots that followed
the acquittal of white police officers in the beating of black motorist
"All you need is a few to disrupt the entire city," Parks said.
Robin Toma, executive director of the county's Commission on Human
Relations, worried that schools could be targeted, though he would not say
Despite the concerns, Los Angeles police have received no credible threats
of possible violence related to the Williams' case, according to Lt. Paul
Vernon. He said police have no plans to deploy more officers.
"We don't want to unduly concern the community over unconfirmed rumors,"
If the governor grants clemency, Williams' death sentence would be
commuted to life without parole.
(source: Associated Press)
Clemency is "the historic remedy for preventing miscarriages of justices
where judicial process has been exhausted.
While we are constantly being reminded of the shopping days we have left
before Christmas, Stanley Tookie Williams has a far more urgent countdown,
his life clock is ticking away, while he waits for California Governor
Arnold Schwarzenegger to decide his fate.
Williams is scheduled to be executed on the 13th of December by lethal
On November 21, I travelled to San Quentin State prison to meet Williams.
When I arrived, I couldn't help wonder why they had chosen this idyllic
place to build one of the most infamous top-security prisons in the
nation. San Quentin is situated on prime real state, overlooking the
beautiful San Francisco Bay, it was established on Bastide Day, 14 July
1852 at point Quentin in Marin County in approximately 432 acres; the
first San Quentin condemned unit was established in 1893, North Block was
built in 1934 and houses all males sentenced to death in the state of
California. The original condemned unit was originally designed to house
68 condemned prisoners. Today, San Quentin houses approximately 6,000
prisoners, and approximately 600 death row prisoners.
The guards at the correctional facilities were cordial and polite. After
being searched, I was allowed to bring in 30 dollars to buy food, and I
was told not to carry phones, cameras, paper or pens. That morning the
weather was beautiful and the sun was shinning as a prison guard escorted
me approximately 1,000 metres to the death row unit. I had expected to
meet Williams behind a barrier of glass and wire partition, as I had when
I met Karla Fay Tucker and Gary Graham in death row in Texas. Instead, I
was going to meet Williams face to face, he was already inside a small
cell with Barbara Becnel his co-author and long-time supporter and
reverend Jesse Jackson. Before I entered, Williams put his hand behind his
back through a small aperture in the metal door for the guard to hand
cuffs him. Once I was inside and the door was closed they removed the
handcuffs, he reached out to say hello, Williams is tall and muscular --
it is visible that he was once a body builder.
He appeared calm and at peace with himself. I shook his hand and sat next
to him. I had so many questions and knew my time with him was limited. I
told him I had recently listened to a debate about his case on National
Public Radio (NPR) and felt very disturbed when his defender had to admit
that he was not willing to apologise or express remorse for the murders
for which he was convicted and condemned to death. I asked him why? He
answered in a calm and measured voice "I am innocent, I did not commit the
crimes for which I was sentenced to death, I cannot ask for forgiveness
and express remorse for a murder I didn't commit, even if by refusing to
do so, I risk losing my life. I cannot lie in order to live." He looked me
straight in the eyes, and said: "First and foremost, I am innocent. There
was no tangible evidence that linked me to the crime -- all evidence was
circumstantial hearsay from a discredited informant, a bloody foot print,
an indentation from an army boot, the indentation did not match my boot s,
no finger print that matched mine. At first the ballistic expert declared
that the shell didn't match my shotgun. The prosecutor, Robert Martin,
told him to try again. This time the ballistic expert said it "was
similar," but at the hearing he said it was the same.
They didn't use photomicrography to examine the shells. 'My lawyers are
asking to have the shells examined with photomicrograph, to establish what
the human eye cannot distinguish' ". I had a sip of water, and asked him
why he thought he was convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he
didn't commit. "I had a nasty reputation and my reputation was put on
trial. I had co-founded the street gang the Crips and had earned a bad
reputation for being violent and beating up people. I was tried convicted
and sentenced to death by an all white jury -- the prosecutor, Robert
Martin, dismissed three prospective black jurors, because he was seeking
an all white jury. He is notorious for engaging in racial discrimination.
In addition, I had incompetent legal counsel."
He took a sip of his drink and went on to say in a lower voice, "I have
apologised on many occasions for my crimes and I genuinely have tried to
How? I asked.
"I have written 9 books to reach out to young people and bring them away
from a life of violence and street gangs. I educated myself and became an
autodidact. As you can imagine this place has little room for
rehabilitation -- it was up to me to change."
"For the first 8 to 9 years I gave them hell, I spent years in solitary
confinement, my redemption came by virtue of my education, it helped me
developed a conscience."
His case has received widespread support among religious leaders, Nobel
Prize winners, celebrities and international figures, and has further
ignited the debate into America's barbaric, medieval and outdated death
This was my 1st visit to San Quentin. However, this was not my 1st visit
to a prisoner on death row awaiting an imminent execution, I was anguished
and upset at the thought that Stanley Tookie Williams only had 22 days to
live and that his life clock was ticking away. I remember having the same
disturbing thought when I visited Karla Fay Tucker and Gary Graham known
as Shaka Sankofa on death row in Texas, both hoped George W. Bush, then
Texas Governor, and the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole would change
their sentence from death to life without parole.
They were both executed by lethal injection.
I witnessed the shocking state sanctioned murder of Gary Graham. Across
America and throughout the world people believed he was innocent of the
crime for which he was executed. He was convicted and sentenced to death
based on a sole eyewitness's testimony. Karla Fay Tucker drew widespread
opposition to her execution because of her rehabilitation, religious
conversion and her work on the "Scare-straight" programme to help
adolescent drug abusers.
Stanley Tookie Williams' life depends on California Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger. The covernor has the authority to grant a pardon if he
believes Stanley Tookie Williams is innocent, rehabilitated, no longer
presents a threat to society and has shown remorse for the crimes for
which he was sentenced. In addition the governor can grant a reprieve to
allow William's lawyer's to present a discovery motion to "seek evidence
that should have been disclosed at the time of his trial but was
suppressed and continues to be suppressed by the prosecution."
Stanley Tookie Williams has been in death row for nearly a quarter of a
Century. In 1971 Williams co-founded the notorious Los Angeles street gang
"the Crips" and in 1981 he was convicted of murder and sentenced to death
by an all white jury. Since Williams incarceration, he has decried gang
violence and has made great efforts to reform the violent conduct of
others. He has written 9 books to warn youth about the dangers of gang
life. His enlightening work has touched thousands of troubled youths and
many have since turned away from gang violence. To those transformed by
Williams writings, he has come to represent a symbol of hope and purpose.
For his good works, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
recommended that Mr. Williams would make a "worthy candidate" for an act
of executive clemency.
Williams has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize every year since
2001. He has also been awarded the US presidential service award in 2005
for his outstanding work to benefit the countrys youth.
In his appeal before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals William argued
that Robert Martin, the prosecutor, had engaged in "impermissible racial
discrimination in the jury selection", Martin had removed all blacks from
Williams' jury, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the US
constitution. In his appeals Williams points to two California Supreme
Court cases that involved the same prosecutor where his actions are at
issue in People vs. Turner and People v. Fuentes, in both cases the
California Supreme Court reversed the judgement, in People vs. Turner the
court concluded "the record demonstrated that the prosecutor used his
peremptory challenges to strike Black prospective jurors in a racially
discriminatory manner for the apparent purpose of obtaining an all-White
jury to try this black defendant for crimes against white victims." In the
People v. Fuentes the court concluded that the prosecutor engaged in a
pattern and practice of discriminating on the basis of race in the
exercise of peremptory challenges."
California is embarking on an avalanche of executions right before a state
senate bipartisan commission is set to examine the fairness of the
application of the death penalty in the State.
The scheduled execution of Williams is but a glimpse into the broken
system of justice in the State of California. 3 men are on the brink of
being executed by lethal injection; their convictions were based on
unreliable informants, racially biased practices, and poor legal counsel.
Death sentences in California continue to rely on discriminatory practices
and sub-standard legal representation. California has no formal system of
proportionality review in either the trial courts or the state supreme
court, and as a result, no mechanism exists to bring the issue of racial
discrimination before state courts. This lack of meaningful review creates
fertile ground for an institutionalised pattern and practice of racial
There is little question that in capital cases, a competent attorney can
mean the difference between life and death. "Often defendants are
sentenced to death not for committing the worst crimes but for having the
worse lawyers". Executing a person, because of the incompetence of their
attorneys, instead of the gravity of their crime, only adds to the
arbitrary and discriminatory nature of the death penalty. The failure of
Williams attorney to object to the jury selection should not prejudice him
from receiving relief from the courts. In his Feb. 2, 2005 dissent on the
9th Circuits decision to deny Stanley Tookie Williams recent request for
relief (Williams v Wodford) Judge Rawlinson stated, "The trial attorney
missed more than one opportunity to make that simple motion; he could have
made the motion after the first strike, the second strike, the third
strike, or at the conclusion of jury selection - when he knew that the
prosecutors challenges had resulted in an all white jury. Any way you
slice it, counsels failure to object constituted ineffective assistance of
counsel, and we should not hesitate to say so."
The California State Senate established a bi-partisan Commission on the
Fair Administration of Justice. The Justice Commission has two years to
identify the problems in the criminal justice system that lead to wrongful
conviction and wrongful execution and to make specific recommendations to
the Legislature and the Governor as to what is needed to make Californias
criminal justice system just, fair, and accurate. The Commission has just
begun to investigate these disturbing issues,
Governor Schwarzenegger must exhibit respect for due process, it would be
indefensible to execute one more person while critical questions about the
administration of justice in the state of California are being reviewed by
a bipartisan committee. The Governor must halt all executions until the
investigation of the Justice Commission is completed.
I urge Governor Schwarzenegger to exhibit leadership and grant clemency to
Stanley Tookie Williams, and commute his sentence from death to life
imprisonment without parole. I hope he will recognise that it is the human
capacity for change and redemption that endows us all with the potential
to become better people. Killing Stanley Tookie Williams will only
complete the cycle of violence and will shout out the light of redemption
that exist in all of us. Governor Schwarzenegger should realise that
criminal courts in the US are the institution least affected by the civil
rights movement, the courts have failed, and are failing in their duty to
ensure due process for all, the death penalty in the state of California
is selectively applied, it feeds prejudices against minorities, the poor
and those lacking political clout. The Governor should declare a
moratorium on all executions in California.
(source: Column, Bianca Jagger, The Huffington Post)
Advocate for the condemned
In a 55-year career, lawyer Carl Shapiro of San Anselmo has done his share
of death row cases and clemency appeals.
He is an avowed opponent of the death sentence and an advocate for sparing
convicted murderer Stanley Tookie Williams.
He has his reasons.
"Anyone who spends time on death row either goes insane or becomes a
Williams, he believes, is the latter. "He's doing a lot of good things and
having a constructive effect on a lot of people." Williams, founder of the
Crips gang and murderer of 4 people, has written books to dissuade young
people from crime.
As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ponders whether to spare Williams' life,
Shapiro tells tales of other death row inmates he has known - including
one who was the last San Quentin inmate to receive clemency.
That man, Calvin Thomas, was spared in 1967 by then-Gov. Ronald Reagan, in
what Shapiro says was a political charade.
"I got a phone call from the governor's clemency secretary asking me to
represent the man at a hearing in the Capitol - 'the governor thinks it
would be fitting if you would represent him.'"
Shapiro had never met Thomas, but when he tracked down the case he found
that transcripts of the trial had not even been filed with the Supreme
Court. No appeal had been scheduled.
The hearing was strictly pro forma, Shapiro says. "(Gov. Reagan) had
decided to grant clemency before the case had even been appealed," Shapiro
says. "He just wanted to be on record as having granted clemency to a
black man. It was just a political ploy. And I was part of the fraud
because he picked me."
Shapiro, 89, recalls that Thomas had firebombed the house of his
girlfriend, and was charged with murder when her child died in the flames.
Shapiro took part in many clemency hearings before Gov. Pat Brown, who
commuted 23 death sentences in the years from 1959 to 1967, but let 36
executions proceed. "A clemency hearing under Pat Brown was like another
trial," he says. "Brown and his clemency secretary Cecil Poole knew all
the facts. Both had an innate disposition against the death penalty."
Shapiro says he also filed appeals for at least 10 death row inmates. Much
of his appellate work was done 3 or 5 decades ago, "when there were 30 or
40 men on death row." Now there are 627.
Shapiro has practiced in Marin since 1951, although he worked for six
years in San Francisco with Vincent Hallinan, and has earned a reputation
as a defender of the underdog and spokesman for human rights. He and his
wife Helen, who died in November, practiced law together in a funky office
in downtown San Anselmo. Their daughter Sylvia, a former Marin court
commissioner, was part of the firm for several years.
Shapiro began working with condemned men after San Francisco Chronicle
reporter Bernice Freeman, whose beat was San Quentin, recommended him to
inmates who wanted to appeal their death sentences. "I started getting
He took many such cases beginning in the '50s. The death penalty in
California was effectively stymied in 1967 and abolished in 1972, and when
it was reinstated in 1977, he didn't do murder appeals any more.
"It takes too much out of you, and if it doesn't take a lot out of you,
you shouldn't do them. The last one I did, it took me months to recover."
He says Stinson Beach lawyer Elizabeth Sapanai "did one death case and
never did another."
"You have someone's life in your hands. Your clients are more dependent on
your skills even than a patient with a doctor."
His last case was that of Mark Richards, tried in Marin and found guilty
of killing the owner of a secondhand store.
He says every case became a family matter. When one of his clients,
Michael Cavanaugh, was about to be executed - "I tried to get the Supreme
Court to review his case but they would not" - his daughter Sylvia, then
11 or 12, was so upset that he and Helen had to take her home from school.
"Cavanaugh was a very disturbed guy - he had killed a friend of his, put
the body in his car and drove around the country trying to figure out what
to do." At his trial, the prosecuting attorney showed the corpse's severed
fingers to the jury, "and that turned the jury around."
"That wouldn't be allowed today."
When an inmate was about to be executed, "I would go out there and visit
him on death row. I lived 'Dead Man Walking' and John Grisham's 'The
Chamber' long before they were written."
The night before Cavanaugh went to the gas chamber, Shapiro visited and
told him that "'I have reached the end of my rope, I can't do anything
more for you.' And Cavanaugh said 'I'm going to be executed tomorrow but
you are going to get a letter from me that I wrote from the bottom of my
In the letter Cavanaugh said, "I'm going to be executed but not because
you failed me, but because of my own actions and failures. It was nothing
you did or didn't do."
Shapiro's eyes shine as he remembers.
What he has always tried to do as a lawyer, he says, is "to bring the
courts back to the people. Some people have influence and money, but
everyone deserves equal protection under the law."
Shapiro saved several men from execution; he even had 2 death convictions
reversed in 1 day.
"One was a fellow named Love, who had been tried three times for murdering
his wife. He had been convicted and sentenced to death. I got him another
Shapiro also worked with Hallinan to free Robert Lee Kidd, charged with
killing a San Francisco antique dealer, and also helped save Robert Mason
from the gas chamber.
When Mason learned his sentence had been commuted to life, he said he
would rather die than spend the rest of his life in prison. "(Clemency
secretary) Poole asked me to go persuade him to accept clemency, which I
"It would have been very embarrassing if the governor granted clemency and
a guy wouldn't take it."
Shapiro remains convinced that the death penalty is "a hideous thing. It
doesn't accomplish anything, and just creates guilt on the part of the
people who do the killing.
"The death penalty is not an appropriate punishment, it's an extinction of
someone you don't think is worthy of life, and you or I can't make that
The death penalty as deterrent? "Nobody seems to be deterred. There's been
no diminution in the amount of killing going on in San Francisco, Oakland,
or Marin. I'm sure nobody thinks of the consequences when they're in the
throes of taking someone's life."
He believes that Tookie WIlliams "wants to be a different person."
On death row, an inmate "has time to think. They ponder who they are and
what they did, and they find the motivation to make themselves better
people, even if they're going to die."
Caryl Chessman, for example, the notorious Red Light Bandit who was put to
death in May 1960, was "completely rehabilitated," Shapiro said, and was
the "constructive leader of all the social and educational activities at
San Quentin prison."
Local lawmaker urges clemency----Joe Nation seeks clemency, moratorium on
Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael, has asked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
to grant clemency to Stanley Tookie Williams and commute his death
sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
"The upcoming execution offers the state of California an opportunity to
take an internationally recognized leadership role by calling for a
moratorium on the death penalty," Nation wrote in a letter to
Schwarzenegger sent Thursday. "It is a bold step that is fiscally
responsible, judicially prudent and morally right."
A spokesman for the governor, Julie Soderlund, said Schwarzenegger had not
yet received the letter Thursday afternoon.
Williams, founder of the notorious Crips street gang, is scheduled to be
executed at San Quentin State Prison at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday for murdering a
7-Eleven clerk and a family of 3 during the commission of separate
robberies in 1979.
"I want to make it clear that I'm not commenting on the issue of guilt or
innocence," Nation said Thursday, speaking from Israel where he is making
an 8-day trip sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council.
"My position is the broader issue of the death penalty," Nation said, "and
whether we should move forward and accelerate the pace of executions in
California, because that seems to be the direction we're heading right
In his letter, Nation notes that due to the mature state of death penalty
appeals, it is likely that dozens of execution dates will be set at San
Quentin within the next 2 years.
"Our current system is plagued with mistakes, resulting in the wrongful
conviction and execution of innocent persons," Nation wrote. "Statistics
indicate that it (death penalty) is administered arbitrarily and unfairly,
and has not been proven to deter crime or improve public safety."
According to the anti-death penalty group, Death Penalty Focus, 119 men
and women have been released from death row after being exonerated - some
only minutes away from execution - since the death penalty was reinstated
in the United States. The former Republican governor of Illinois, George
Ryan, commuted the sentences of all the inmates awaiting execution in that
state in 2003 after several people were released from death row for
In 2004, the state Senate created the California Commission on the Fair
Administration of Justice to examine the capital punishment system in
California and recommend improvements.
In his letter, Nation urged Schwarzenegger to, at the very least, impose a
moratorium on executions until the commission presents its findings. The
commission expects to complete its work by the end of 2007.
Nation also appealed to Schwarzenegger's stated desire to cut wasteful
government spending. According to estimates by Attorney General Bill
Lockyer, it costs the state $12.5 million to execute a murderer and just
$1.5 million to imprison them for life.
Nation said he has been a lifelong opponent of the death penalty. He wrote
a similar letter to Schwarzenegger prior to the execution of Donald
Beardslee in January.
"I do not believe the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for a
civilized society," Nation said.
Nation's action drew praise from local death penalty opponents.
"That is what we're supporting, a moratorium on the death penalty, until
eventually the death penalty is simply not allowed any more," said Sue
Severin, coordinator of the Marin chapter of Death Penalty Focus.
"The death penalty doesn't work," Severin said. "The states that don't
have death penalties anymore - 12 of them - have a lower murder rate than
the states that have death penalties."
But Mark Hill, chairman of the Marin Republican Party, said the suffering
of victims needs to be considered along with the rights of the accused.
"There is layer upon layer of checks and balances here to ensure that the
rights of the criminals are protected," Hill said. "But we need to be
very, very aware and sensitive to the rights of the victims. This guy
brutally murdered 4 people."
(source for both: Marin Independent Journal)
'I Should Give Up?' -- On the eve of his execution, Stanley (Tookie)
Williams discusses his bid for clemency
Unless California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger grants his appeal for
clemency, Stanley (Tookie) Williams is scheduled to be executed late
Monday night at San Quentin State Prison, where he has been on death row
since 1981 following a conviction for quadruple murder. Williams, 51, a
cofounder of the notorious Crips street gang, has for 24 years maintained
his innocence in the killings of Albert Owens, Tsai-Shai Yang, Yen-I Yang
and Yee-Chen Lee, in two separate robberies. But he has apologized for
what he calls his own "despicable" conduct as a gang leader in Los Angeles
during the 1970s and has written a series of books intended to deter young
people from the gang culture he helped to create. For his work, Williams
has been nominated by anti-death-penalty activists for the Nobel Peace
Prize and he has become the subject of a worldwide campaign to persuade
Schwarzenegger to spare his life. Williams spoke Friday with NEWSWEEKs
Karen Breslau by phone from his cell on San Quentins death row. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: Will you describe the physical conditions you are now
Stanley Williams: You mean being shackled to my bed? There's a guard
outside watching my every move. All of my possessions have been removed
from my cell. That's to be expected in the case of individuals who are
There's a common perception in the outside world that it would be "better
to be dead" than to be locked away for the rest of your life. You are
fighting almost until the final hour for yours. Why do you want to go on
under the conditions you live in?
First and foremost, I have the heart, the fortitude and the redemption to
fight. I'm not culpable. I'm not guilty. Im not a quitter. I've been
fighting all my life. Being black is the paramount [reason]. This
integrity and fortitude I possess has been foisted down to me from my
ancestors who fought to stay alive when they were in slavery, who fought
to stay alive during moments of lynching, on down through profiling and
other attacks of injustice.
Are you saying that what's happened in your life, that you are on death
row is the result of racism?
Of course. It's germane to my wretched past. I believe I'm here by virtue
of karma, not because of killing someone, because I didn't do that, but
because of other things I have done and gotten away with in the past.
If you had been able to sit in the room with Arnold Schwarzenegger during
your clemency hearing, how would you have asked him to spare your life?
I would first and foremost say I am innocent, and if I am granted
clemency, I will continue to do my work. I believe that what I'm doing is
working. The tens of thousands of e-mails I receive--well, I don't get
e-mail, but that my Web site receives--from people saying they have been
helped, demonstrates it's working, helping people to escape from [lives of
violence]. Even if I were granted clemency I wouldn't rest on my laurels.
I recently had the opportunity to meet with the president and CEO of the
NAACP, Bruce Gordon. What resulted was a violence-prevention curriculum
that the NAACP will sponsor. They are going to use my books and other
works to help preserve and teach those who [want to turn their lives
The prosecutors told the governor that your refusal to "debrief" or, as
your supporter have said, "to become a snitch" about the Crips sends the
wrong message to young people. Why dont you tell them to cooperate with
police? To tell them if they are witnesses to a crime? To help them solve
Let me say this to you and to the world. I have transformed my life. I am
no longer a violent man. I will not, I will never do anything to cause
harm to any human being on the face of this planet. If I feel that opening
my mouth will harm another human being, it does not matter who they are,
what their color or creed is. I can't do it. I can't do it. That is
something I have vowed to God. My vow to God is more important than what I
say to any human being on the face of this earth.
Prosecutors have also said that you are pushing not just for clemency,
which would mean a reduction in your death sentence to life without
parole, but also for eventual release from prison. That you want out of
prison and you will say whatever you need to say now in order to live to
file more appeals.
Well, let's put it this way. If my attorneys can prove my innocence,
should I not do that? I'm sure if the infallible DA were in my position,
he too would strive for innocence. They dont give up. Why, because I'm
black, I should give up? Because I cofounded the Crips, I should give up?
They try to prove everything the Crips did is my responsibility. I have
been locked away since 1979. That would be akin to saying all white people
are racist and should be held accountable. For me to say all white people
are racist would be absurd. That's akin to saying Im responsible for all
crimes committed by the Crips.
For 24 years, you have disputed your guilt in killing 4 people. You've
said it numerous times in this conversation. Would you say their names?
Pardon? [Phone appears to be cut off by prison. Silence.] Williams's
advocate, Barbara Becnel, responds. 'What kind of question is that? Either
way he answers that, hes f----ed. That's a racist question.'
Court backs jurors' use of Bible texts----They urged death penalty after
reading passages on vengeance.
A federal appeals court reinstated a California man's death sentence,
ruling Thursday that jurors did not invalidate their deliberations by
considering biblical arguments in favor of vengeance.
The Los Angeles jurors in the 1979 case of Stevie Lamar Fields unanimously
agreed that death was the appropriate punishment after their foreman
circulated biblical and other religious passages - "an eye for an eye,"
for example - that seemed to require it.
Biblical references supporting mercy and forgiveness were not circulated
in the jury room, according to a lower court's ruling.A federal trial
judge in Los Angeles reversed Fields' sentence 5 years ago, citing jury
misconduct. The decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to
reinstate it appears to be the 1st of its kind and could make Fields, now
49, a candidate for execution in the near future.
Prosecutors have long been barred from appealing to jurors' religious
sentiments in urging a vote for death, and jurors have been required to
base their decisions on evidence presented in the courtroom rather than
factors learned outside.
But the 9th Circuit said Fields' case was different.
Led by Judge Pamela Rymer of Pasadena, the unanimous 3-judge panel ruled
that "what may be improper or prejudicial when said by a prosecutor may
not be so when said by a juror."
Bible verses are the sort of "common knowledge" that jurors may employ in
exercising their moral judgment, said the court. It said the Bible verses
were not the kinds of extrinsic facts that were barred from the jury's
consideration because "they are not, in fact, facts at all."
Agreeing with Rymer were 9th Circuit Judges Alex Kozinski, also of
Pasadena, and Barry Silverman of Phoenix.
Fields was among the 1st people whose death sentences were upheld by the
California Supreme Court after capital punishment was reinstated here in
He committed 3 kidnappings, 3 rapes, 4 robberies and a murder within a
couple of weeks after being released from prison on another homicide.
Evidence from the jury room first came to light, however, when his case
reached federal court.
In granting Fields a new penalty trial in 2000, U.S. District Judge
Dickran Tevrizian quoted jurors who said they were unable to reach a
verdict during the 1st day of deliberations but did so after discussing
the religious passages on the 2nd day.
"The references directed the jury that the death penalty should be imposed
in any case involving murder," Tevrizian wrote. "The biblical references
... commanded the jury to resolve the issue in favor of a death sentence."
Citing decisions from other circuits, he said it was "well-settled" that
"religion may not play a role in the sentencing process." Tevrizian also
cited evidence that most of the jurors favored a verdict of life in prison
without possibility of parole until the biblical references were
David Olson, who currently represents Fields, said he will file further
appeals. He could seek further review in the 9th Circuit or review by the
U.S. Supreme Court.
Nathan Barankin, spokesman for the state attorney general's office, which
won Thursday's decision, said the 9th Circuit correctly recognized that in
the penalty phase of a capital case, "jurors are relied on to apply their
own personal background, common sense and standards of justice."
(source: Sacramento Bee)
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