December 12, 2005

Stanley Tookie Williams

Snapshots In My Time...
Of My Time.....Hauntings.

On February 28, 1979, about 4 a.m., Williams and three friends got high on their psychedelic smokes and took two cars, a 12-gauge shotgun and a .22-caliber handgun to Pomona in search of a place to rob, according to court documents. They ended up at a 7-Eleven where Albert Owens, 26, was working the overnight shift, sweeping the parking lot.

The military veteran was a "redheaded, freckle-faced kid who had the biggest smile you wanted to see," according to his older brother, Wayne Owens, 55, of Olathe, Kansas.

Albert Owens said, "Take everything you want," says the now-retired prosecutor, Robert Martin, who remembers the case in detail.

Williams ordered Owens into a back room at gunpoint, shot out a security monitor, then ordered, "Get down on your knees, (expletive)," and shot him twice in the back, according to testimony. Williams "later laughed about it as he was eating his hamburger," Martin says.

There were no witnesses other than accomplices.

Less than two weeks later, on March 11, Williams broke down the door at the Brookhaven Motel, ripping through four locks and shattering the molding, according to a prosecutor.

Killed were Yen-I Yang, 76; his wife, Tsai-Shai Yang, 63, and their visiting daughter, Yee-Chen Lin, 43. The Taiwanese immigrants were about to sell the business because the neighborhood had become too rough, Martin said.

Again, there were no surviving witnesses. Three of Williams' friends -- all with criminal histories and motivation to lie, Williams says -- testified that he confessed to them. A ballistics expert linked a shotgun shell at the motel to Williams' gun.

Williams maintains he's innocent despite several unsuccessful appeals.

His conviction took him off the street, but failed to halt the growth of the Crips he had founded in 1971 when he and Raymond Washington, a high school friend, formed a gang they called the Cribs. Drunken members routinely mispronounced it as "Crips" and the misnomer stuck.

From behind bars he watched as the neighborhood gang he helped form grew into a nationwide, drug-dealing criminal organization responsible for thousands of deaths. One of his two sons, Stanley Williams Jr., joined the gang and is now serving time for second-degree murder.

Prison officials said recently that they believe the elder Williams is still involved in the gang, calling shots from the prison, though they acknowledged they don't have hard evidence.

"A con always will say one thing to you while the whole time he has another agenda," prison spokesman Vernell Crittendon said. "I'm concerned that possibly this marketing that's going on ... leads the public to hear the words, but not to see that sleight of hand."

First and most importantly, he says, he developed a conscience. He read everything he could get his hands on -- the Bible, the dictionary, a thesaurus. He studied languages, theology, philosophy. He struggled to understand his past.

He said he was consumed with pain and guilt "for the lives of all the Crips who had died, for the innocent black lives hurt in the crossfire, for the decades of young lives ruined for a causeless cause."

By 1992, he was a changed man, he says. His courage, once based on violence and indifference, now was based on faith and redemption, he says.

"The majority of the detractors and naysayers ... it's difficult for them to recognize the redemption," he says.

But to family members of one of his victims, the campaign to save Williams distracts from the cold-blooded crimes he was convicted of while terrorizing Los Angeles.

Stanley "Tookie" Williams' life will not be spared, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced Monday afternoon (December 12), denying the convicted murderer and former gang leader's appeal for clemency less than 12 hours before his scheduled execution.

"Clemency cases are always difficult and this one is no exception," Schwarzenegger said in a statement following his announcement. "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. The facts do not justify overturning the jury's verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case."

The governor held a clemency hearing on Thursday with Williams' lawyers and Los Angeles prosecutors. Each side had 30 minutes to plead their case on whether or not the Crips co-founder's life should be spared (see "Schwarzenegger Meets With Tookie Williams' Lawyers").

Schwarzenegger was Williams' last hope to stay alive, as the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Sunday against granting him a stay of execution, saying each of the nine claims he brought forth lacked merit (see "California Supreme Court Rejects Tookie Williams' Appeal"). A federal appeals court also ruled on Monday that it would not block Tuesday's scheduled execution. During a press conference Friday, Schwarzenegger called the decision of William's clemency "a very heavy responsibility."

After hearing the news, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, a vocal supporter and friend of Williams, said Schwarzenegger made the decision for purely political reasons. He added that he believes the five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee has earned clemency based on his meaningful contributions to society, by staving off at-risk youth from following his path into gang life.

During a meeting with Williams earlier that morning, Jackson told CNN that his friend seemed to possess a sense of inner peace. "He said he did not fear evil. He did not fear hurt," he said, adding that they had also said a prayer together.

Williams, who was convicted in 1981 of the murders of four people stemming from two separate robbery incidents in 1979, is set to die by lethal injection one minute after midnight at San Quentin State Prison. There is no word yet on who will be at the execution, but CNN reported that a few of Williams' family members, two spiritual advisors and members of the victims' families will most likely be present.

In earlier interviews, Williams seemed to have already accepted his fate. "I am not the kind of person to sit around and worry about being executed," Williams told Reuters in November. "I'm sure there are detractors who would like to hear that I am weeping ... [but] I fear nothing except God. My hope lies in [God] above anything and everything else. I have faith and if it doesn't go my way, it doesn't go my way."

Williams is said to have spent Monday morning in a visiting room with advisors, attorneys, family and friends. He will be moved into a special holding cell at 6 p.m., where he will be served his optional last meal.

Williams' case has rekindled the debate between those who support and oppose capital punishment. Meanwhile, Williams himself has remained fairly quiet on the matter, instead letting his high-profile backers speak for him. Among them are Jackson, rapper Snoop Dogg, who held a protest in San Quentin in support of his longtime friend (see "Snoop Tries To Get Crips Co-Founder Off Real Death Row"), and Oscar-winner Jamie Foxx, who portrayed the convict in the TV movie "Redemption: The Tookie Williams Story."


  1. Great post! I've been following this issue and was interested to see what other bloggers have to say. I think life with no chance of parole would have been a MUCH better option. I guess it'll be morning before we all know for sure if Tookie's life will be spared.

  2. I just wanted to say that I'm very thankful that you're writing about this in your blog. I have to admit to my own ignornce that I only recently learned of this case and now, impending execution.

    In my own area, Maryland just committed an execution of its own, of Wesley E. Baker, and Virginia governor just granted Robin Lovitt clemency.

    I'd disturbed and saddened by it all. I'm not sure what to say about any of it. I do know, however, that more people need to speak out more often and oppose capital punishment. Innocence or guilt aside, it's clear that "our" justice system suffers from racism and disproportionately targets men of color.

  3. When they executed Williams he was twice as old as he had been when he committed his crimes. He could not have been the same person and he was obviously trying to have a positive impact on the world regardless of previous deeds. Isn't the application of the death penalty supposed to be held for the unredeemable? I think Williams had done a lot to redeem himself. I think the death penalty is barbaric and evil. It is racist and classist in its application and therefore fundamently unfair and in my opinion unconstitutional on that basis alone. All men to be treated equally my ass. It also seems pretty damn cruel and unusual to have your death schedueled. Horrible. God Bless Stanley Williams and the people whose lives he destroyed. Even if someone is guilty I don't believe we should go around murdering them.