The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Opposition to California Execution Builds

Death row inmate has inspired youth to eschew violence

by F. Timothy Martin

Last week, supporters of former gang-member Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams demonstrated to stop the impending execution of the author and Nobel Prize nominee.

San Quentin, California; Nov. 21, 2005 – Hundreds of protesters rallied in front of San Quentin prison on Saturday to demand clemency for death row inmate Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams.

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Barring intervention from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or President Bush, on December 13 the state of California will execute Williams, who was a co-founder of the notorious LA street gang the Crips. Williams was convicted of murdering a convenience-store clerk and a family of three during two separate robbery attempts in Los Angeles 26 years ago.

Since his conviction, however, Williams has penned several highly acclaimed books aimed at steering teens away from gang violence. His writing and advocacy work have landed him Nobel Prize nominations for Peace and Literature. In 2004 he was the subject of Redemption, a feature film that starred Jamie Foxx. Earlier this year he was presented a Presidential Call to Service Award by President Bush.

The rally featured hip-hop artist Snoop Dogg, himself a former Crips gang member, who said he was moved to action after viewing Foxx’s portrayal of Williams. The rapper announced plans to release a new single on Monday that addresses Williams’ incarceration.

Accusing the state of trying to rush the execution before opposition builds, supporters have expressed anger at the date set for his execution. Another inmate whose death certificate Schwarzenegger signed a week before Williams’s received an execution date in January. A third inmate, whose case was heard with that of Williams, received a February execution date.

"What’s the rush to execute him?" asked Barbara Becnel, Williams’s editor and host of the San Quentin rally.

Several speakers at the rally testified to the positive influence of Williams’s books.

"He’s a role model to me," said Zachary Williams, a 7th grade student from Oakland. "I’ve read his books about life in prison. He encouraged me not to do some of the stuff my friends do."

In several recent interviews, Williams has maintained his innocence. However, in early November, the California Department of Corrections (DOC) issued a press release trumpeting his guilt. The DOC has also accused Williams of being a gang leader while at San Quentin, an assertion that both Williams and his supporters deny.

A recent prison report states that Williams has not been disciplined by prison authorities since 1993, when he finished a six-and-a-half-year long stint in solitary confinement. It was during that time that Williams says he decided to change his life’s course.

But despite his decade of service and the groundswell of support for Williams’s cause, prosecutors are urging Gov. Schwarzenegger to deny his request for clemency.

Last year, a dozen states executed a combined total of 59 prisoners, according to the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics. Williams would become the second inmate executed in California since Gov. Schwarzenegger took office.

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

F. Timothy Martin is a contributing journalist.

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