October 11, 2005

Appeal denied, Calif. gang leader faces execution

By Adam Tanner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Stanley "Tookie" Williams,
founder of the notorious Crips gang in Los Angeles, could be
executed for murder later this year after the U.S. Supreme
Court declined on Tuesday to hear his case.

Without comment or recorded dissent, the U.S. Supreme Court
declined to review the case in which defense attorneys argued
that the prosecutor had racially discriminated in selecting a
jury to try Williams, who is black.

Convicted of four murders, Williams has become became one
of America's best-known death row inmates by writing books
urging youth not to get involved with gangs. He was portrayed
by actor Jamie Foxx in the 2004 television movie "Redemption."

Williams could be executed in as little as 30 days, a state
spokesman said, although the implementation of the sentence
could be put off until early 2006. A prominent supporter of
Williams vowed to keep fighting the sentence.

"Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it is OK for a
white district attorney to kick all of the minorities off of a
jury," said Barbara Becnel, who wrote nine children's books
with Williams.

"This is an outrage for all Americans and we will fight,"
she said.

The court's denial of Williams' appeal does not amount to a
ruling on the legal merits of the case.

A California jury convicted Williams in 1981 of the murders
two years earlier of a white convenience-store clerk in a $120
robbery and of three Asian-American family members who owned a
Los Angeles hotel in a robbery of $50.

Attorneys for Williams argued that the prosecutor
deliberately removed all potential jurors who were black. But a
federal appeals court in California rejected his appeal, and he
asked the Supreme Court to review his case in a request
supported by civil-rights groups.

Becnel said the high court under new Chief Justice John
Roberts had shown itself insensitive to racial issues in
refusing to take the case. "Today the new Roberts court has
sent a powerful and compelling message and that message is we
don't give a damn about minorities in this country," she said.

Nathan Barankin, spokesman for California Attorney General
Bill Lockyer, disagreed with Becnel's characterization of the
jury as having no minorities and said the panel included an
African American and a Hispanic member.

"All that that they were able to say was that the district
attorney removed three African American jurors," Barankin said.

Becnel, who has frequently visited Williams at San Quentin
prison north of San Francisco, said his lawyers were preparing
last-minute legal briefs to the federal appeals court to argue
his innocence. They will also appeal for clemency to California
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

While in prison, Williams has renounced his gang past and
has written a series of books aimed at young children such as
"Gangs and Your Neighborhood." He has always maintained that he
is innocent.

(Additional reporting by Jim Vicini in Washington)