by Rebecca Doran / November 2005 issue of Socialist Action newspaper
On Oct. 11 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the final appeal of San Quentin death row inmate Stanley Tookie Williams. This decision by the high court upheld a February 2005 decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that had upheld Williams’ 1981 sentence of death.
On Oct. 24, Superior Court Judge William Pounders smiled as he signed the death warrant that officially assigned Dec. 13 as the date the state will execute Williams by lethal injection.
Reining in the so-called “Roberts era,” the Supreme Court also refused to hear the final appeals of two other San Quentin death row inmates. Michael Angelo Morales is facing a February execution date. And 75-year-old wheelchair-bound Clarence Ray Allen is facing a Jan. 17 execution.
The Court’s rejection of these final appeals opened the gates for what could be the most active period in San Quentin’s execution chamber since California reinstated the death penalty in 1977.
Moreover, according to the Williams defense committee, the rejection by the Supreme Court of Williams’ appeal to investigate racism and discrimination during the criminal trial establishes as case law the right for prosecutors to exclude jurors on the basis of race and
to denigrate minority defendants in front of all-white juries.
The issue highlighted in this claim is the fact that the prosecutor in Williams’ case removed all potential African American jurors. And during his closing arguments, that same prosecutor made remarks to the jury comparing a shackled Williams to a Bengal tiger in the zoo and stated that South Central Los Angeles, the predominately Black community where Williams
lived, was equivalent to the natural habitat of a Bengal tiger.
Anti-death-penalty activists are scurrying to prepare for what promises to be an all-out battle to stop these upcoming executions, and international focus on Tookie Williams is intensifying.
That the state of California assigned a December execution date for Williams while pursuing January and February executions for the other two inmates is no accident. The upcoming mass mobilization to stop the execution of Williams threatens to expose the state of
California’s revenue machine that is fueled by mass imprisonment and executions of poor and minority people.
The international spotlight focused on Williams is based upon the fact that he was a co-founder of the infamous street gang the Crips but is now a five-time nominee for the Nobel Peace prize. He is also a four-time nominee for the Nobel Prize for Literature and the author of a series of influential books designed—with help from his friend and tireless supporter, Barbara Becnel—to keep kids out of gangs. Williams was also the subject of the 2003 Fox movie, “Redemption,” staring Jamie Foxx. Further, Williams is credited with having saved the lives of over 150,000 young people who have written to Williams via his website, “Tookie’s Corner” at http://www.tookie.com.
Williams was convicted in 1981 of four counts of first-degree murder and two counts of robbery while using a firearm, which he allegedly committed at two different scenes in the summer of 1979. At that time Williams was a well-known thug whose gang-organizing
abilities were extraordinary; the fear his name generated on the streets is the stuff of legends.
According to Williams, he and his late friend Raymond Lee Washington co-founded the Crips in 1971 to protect their community from attacks by local gangs. But by 1979 the Crips had grown from a small Los Angeles organization to a predatory street gang with membership spread across the California.
In his book, “Blue Rage, Black Redemption, A Memoir” (Damamli Publishing, 2004), Williams recalls his journey from early childhood in poverty-stricken New Orleans to his upbringing in the hard, fight-or-die streets of South Central Los Angeles.
Williams also lays out the mindset of the out-of-control, senseless lifestyle of “Crippen” and
the violence he and his fellow gang members perpetrated against other Blacks and members of rival gangs. However, he also notes that “with the cops’ Machiavellian presence, the gang epidemic escalated.” He explains, “When gang warfare is fed and fueled by law enforcement, funds are generated for the so-called anti-gang units. Without gangs, these units would no
In the weeks leading up to Williams’ arrest, the harassment he received at the hands of the police had reached an all-time peak. He claims that cops created a “mythical ‘super-nigger’ stigma” around him. Once, cops held Williams at gunpoint and threatened to “blow him away and get it over with.”
A friend of Williams who had relatives in the LAPD informed him that he had been placed on the “Alpha List,” which was a list of Black men who were believed by police to be menaces to society. According to Williams, the men included on the Alpha List were set up by cops for crimes they did not do while incriminating guns were planted on them.
By the summer of 1979, Williams’ days on the streets were numbered. And when he was arrested for these murder/robberies, it came as no surprise to most observers. Several witnesses came forward to claim that Williams confessed to the murders, and an expert
testified that a shell casing found at the scene could have only come from a gun registered to Williams. But what wasn’t known was that the incriminating “evidence” was questionable, and the testimony provided by the witnesses was suspect at best. And Williams, who was drugged and beaten by law enforcement during the days of his trial, was assigned unfit legal counsel. Williams has always maintained that he is innocent of these crimes.
Williams’ fingerprints were not found at either crime scene. However, incriminating fingerprints belonging to others were found at both scenes but have not been investigated by police.
A boot print not matching Williams’ was found at one of the bloody crime scenes. It was imprinted with a dark substance resembling blood but was dismissed as evidence by police who claimed that this untested substance could have been syrup!
Every person who testified against Williams was facing felony charges and each of these witnesses, according to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, had incentive to lie.
A prison guard gave one witness who was behind bars the file detailing both murder scenes. This witness later testified that Williams confessed and described both of these crime scenes. The witness described to Williams’ jury minute details that seemingly could
have only come from Williams. This witness, who was also facing murder charges and a sentence of death, was then given a lighter sentence.
The shotgun shell found at one scene was traced to Williams’ gun, but the gun was later found by police under the bed of a husband and wife crime team. This couple was facing felony fraud charges and was under investigation for murder. After testifying against
Williams their murder investigation was dropped and they served no prison time for the fraud charges.
When Williams arrived on death row in 1981 he was an angry, poorly educated gang leader. But after over six years in solitary confinement, he went through a remarkable personal transformation. Williams renounced his gang affiliation and has devoted his life to saving children from the paths they are set on by the lethal environments in which they’re raised.
On Nov. 8, a clemency petition will be filed by Williams’ defense team to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. If the governor agrees to grant Williams a hearing it will be held sometime around Dec. 2. So far in his gubernatorial career, Schwarzenegger has denied both clemency cases that have come before him.
It is up to activists to get into the streets and win for Williams the same victory won for San Quentin death-row inmate Kevin Cooper, who was granted a last-minute stay of execution by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003.
For those in the Bay Area, join the Bay Area Anti-Death Penalty Coalition. Activists can download the “Tookie” fact sheet at http://www.tookie.com/tookie_fact_sheet_10.18.05.pdf. People can also donate money to the movement through the website.
Stop the execution of Stanley Tookie Williams and join us in ending the death penalty!