Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the street-gang leader turned anti-gang activist on California's Death Row, lost his last-ditch bid for clemency from the Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, yesterday, making it almost certain that he would be executed by lethal injection early this morning.
Mr Williams' case has stirred debate and international interest because, to his supporters at least, he has appeared to be an emblem of rehabilitation and prison-house redemption. Having been a founding member of the notorious Crips gang, with a reputation for blood-curdling violence including the four murders for which he was sentenced to death, he has spent the past 10 years writing books to deter disadvantaged kids from following his example and devising protocols to broker peace agreements between warring gangs all the way from New Jersey to South Africa.
In the end, though, Mr Schwarzenegger gave very little consideration to such activities, saying they did not carry "persuasive weight", and questioned whether Mr Williams had undergone any prison-house redemption at all.
"After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find no justification for granting clemency," Mr Schwarzenegger said in a written statement released barely 12 hours before the appointed execution time at San Quentin prison outside San Francisco.
Mr Schwarzenegger berated Mr Williams for his failure to admit guilt in the four murders for which he was convicted and sentenced - he has consistently claimed that he is innocent - and belittled an apology Mr Williams wrote in 1997 for everything he and the Crips had wrought as no more than "innuendo and inference". The Governor's statement argued that the continuing pervasiveness of gang violence meant that Mr Williams' anti-gang activities had not been effective enough to be taken seriously.Reuse content