Gangland killer on death row gets award from Bush

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The recipient of the letter, which comes with the President's Call to Service Award, is Stanley "Tookie" Williams, founder of the Crips street gang in Los Angeles, who was sentenced to death in 1981 for the murder of four people.

ButWilliams haschanged his ways. The gangland killer has become a relentless anti-violence campaigner who has written 10 books urging young people to stay clear of gangs. But his long legal battle continues, with a final appeal for clemency now before the Supreme Court in Washington.

William Harrison, the church minister who recommended Williams for the award, said: "People can be redeemed. It doesn't matter where you come from. You may be on death row, but able to lend something that people can say, 'this has inspired me to change my life'."

Some 267,000 Americans have received the honour, handed out by the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.

Mr Bush probably never had any idea a congratulatory letter with his signature had been sent to Williams. The award is determined by nominating organisations, and merely rubberstamped by the council. It is, however, unlikely it would do much to change Mr Bush's mind were he in a position to decide Williams's fate. Only once during his years as Texas governor did the future President stay an execution - which was later carried out in any case.