Monday, December 12, 2005

Gov. Schwarzenegger Denies Clemency for Crips Co-Founder

Gov. Schwarzenegger Denies Clemency for Crips Co-Founder

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec. 12 - Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced today that he would not grant clemency to Stanley Williams, whose bid to avoid execution after midnight tonight has gained wide attention.

Mr. Schwarzenegger's decision not to halt Mr. Williams' execution by injection at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday is his third rejection of a petition for a stay of execution or clemency since taking office in 2003. Clemency has not been granted to a death row inmate in California since 1967.

Mr. Williams, 51, a co-founder of the Crips gang of Los Angeles who was convicted of murdering four people, has been on death row since 1981, following his conviction for murdering four people in 1979.

On Sunday night, the California Supreme Court refused to hear last-minute petitions filed the day before by Mr. Williams's lawyers. Today, the Ninth United States Circuit Court of Appeals refused to block his execution. The case is now being automatically appealed to the United States Supreme Court, according to Mr. Williams's lawyers.

Meanwhile, Mr. Williams's supporters are staging events around California and elsewhere today, including Cleveland, Denver and Washington to press his case in the court of public opinion.

In San Francisco, a 25-mile march began this morning at the city's Palace of Legion of Honor, snaking its way across the Golden Gate Bridge and through Marin County to arrive at the gates of San Quentin State Prison around 6 p.m. A rally outside the prison, where Mr. Williams is being held, is set for 8 p.m.

To his supporters, Mr. Williams, who has unwaveringly maintained he is innocent of the four murders, is a symbol of redemption from an early life gone awry. To those who back his execution, he is a criminal who deserves to die not only for the crimes he was convicted of but also for those many that the street gang that he helped create has carried out.

During more than two decades on death row, Mr. Williams, widely known by his nickname Tookie, has renounced gang life and publicly and repeatedly urged others - especially young people - to do the same. Supporters have even nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

His lawyers have based their requests for clemency on his prison writings and talks delivered to audiences by telephone from behind bars, and their legal appeals on mistakes they say occurred during his trial. Despite those issues and concerns, no court has yet intervened to overturn his conviction or spare him the death penalty.

Mr. Schwarzenegger told reporters in November that he did not have any fixed guidelines for determining whether any death row inmate should live.

"It's a case-by-case situation," he said.

While awaiting the governor's decision, Mr. Williams entered what prison officials call the "five-day countdown." On Thursday, he was moved to a unit known as Condemned Row 1, one of three buildings that house San Quentin's 651 death row inmates.

In recent days, prison officials say, he has received many visitors, been seen frequently writing on a manual typewriter, and gone jogging around a rooftop enclosure.

Sarah Kershaw reported from San Francisco for this article, and Shadi Rahimi reported from New York.

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