SAN QUENTIN, Calif. (AP) — Crips gang co-founder Stanley “Tookie” Williams maintained his innocence right up until his death, even when an admission of guilt might have spared him execution for killing four persons.
Lora Owens, the stepmother of one of the four persons Williams was convicted of killing, witnessed the early-morning execution yesterday and said: “I believe it was a just punishment long overdue.”
After he was pronounced dead at 12:35 a.m., Williams’ supporters shouted, “California just killed an innocent man,” and promised to continue their efforts to prove his innocence, even after the courts and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, rejected a flurry of last-ditch appeals.
Hollywood stars and capital-punishment foes argued that Williams, 51, had made amends in prison by writing children’s books about the dangers of gangs.
Apart from the protesters at the prison, some were there to honor the memory of Williams’ victims: store clerk Albert Owens, 26, and motel owners Yen-I Yang, 76, and Tsai-Shai Yang, 63, and their daughter, Yee-Chen Lin, 43.
Debbie Lynch said Williams did not deserve to be spared because he did not admit his crimes.
“If he admitted to it, the governor might have had a reason to spare his life,” said Miss Lynch, 52, of Milpitas.
Both state and federal courts had refused to intervene on Williams’ behalf. At midday Monday, Mr. Schwarzenegger denied Williams’ request for clemency, saying, “Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption.”
Mr. Schwarzenegger said the evidence of Williams’ guilt was “strong and compelling.” Witnesses at Williams’ trial said he boasted about the killings, saying: “You should have heard the way he sounded when I shot him.”
Williams became the 12th person executed in California since lawmakers reinstated the death penalty in 1977.
On Monday he was led into the death chamber just before midnight, declining to give a formal final statement.
Williams seemed frustrated by the time it took officials to insert the intravenous lines into his arms. About 15 minutes after the process began, it sounded as if he asked one of the men struggling with a needle: “You doing that right?”
Williams lifted his head at times to glimpse witnesses through the window, at one point giving the pool of reporters what they described as a hard stare.
He appeared to stop breathing just moments after a prison official read the death warrant.
In 1971, Williams founded the Crips gang with a friend. Authorities say the gang is responsible for hundreds of deaths, many of them in battles with the rival Bloods for turf and control of the drug trade.
Whatever luck Williams found on the streets avoiding the law ended in 1979 after the four victims were gunned down in a pair of armed robberies that were connected to him and his pump-action shotgun.
Williams never wavered from his claim of innocence, though he apologized for starting the Crips.