December 11, 2005

Schwarzenegger still undecided on gang leader

By Kemp Powers

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - California Gov. Arnold
Schwarzenegger will not decide on Sunday whether to grant
clemency to former Crips gang leader Stanley Tookie Williams,
who is slated to be executed this week for murdering four
people in 1979, his office said.

As Williams awaited the clemency decision, his lawyers
sought to prevent his scheduled Tuesday execution with a new
petition to the California Supreme Court.

Barring clemency or last-minute court intervention,
officials will administer a lethal injection to Williams at
12:01 a.m. on Tuesday in the death chamber at San Quentin State

"Mr. Williams has maintained his innocence since the day he
was arrested," Attorney Verna Wefald wrote in the petition
filed to the state's top court on Saturday.

"Given that the state's case rests on the testimony of
criminal informants who had an incentive to lie, not only to
obtain benefits, but to hide the truth of their involvement in
these crimes, it is imperative that discovery be granted at
this critical stage of Mr. Williams' case."

The attorney argued Williams was unable to challenge the
credibility of key witnesses against him due to a "substandard"
police investigation and evidence suppressed by the prosecutor.
Such evidence would have implicated others in the four shooting
deaths for which Williams, 51, was convicted and condemned to
death in 1981, she said.

The petition called the key testimony of a sheriff's deputy
that Williams' shotgun fired the shell found at the crime scene
"junk science" and that the prosecution failed to disclose that
witness Alfred Coward was not a U.S. citizen and had several
prior arrests for violent crimes. Coward is currently serving
time in a Canadian prison for killing a man during a robbery.

The Williams case has generated widespread interest and
passionate debate over the death penalty in the United States
because the prisoner has written a series of books warning
young people against gangs and says he has earned redemption.

As a quarter of a century of legal appeals have failed,
Williams' lawyers have said in recent days that their greatest
hope of saving his life lies with Schwarzenegger, who can
commute the sentence to life in prison without parole.

The celebrity governor's office said he would not make a
decision on Sunday, meaning that he will do so on Monday. After
a clemency hearing on Thursday, Schwarzenegger said the
decision was a "heavy responsibility" and he was studying all
sides of the issue.

Los Angeles civic and community leaders have urged the
public to remain calm whatever the governor decides, out of
fears that Williams' execution could spark rioting.

It is unclear whether the latest legal tactics will win a
reprieve for the inmate, who has apologized for his gang past
but not for the murders, which he said he did not commit.

California's Supreme Court has already recently denied a
request to stop the Williams execution.

(Additional reporting by Adam Tanner in San Francisco)

(CRIME-EXECUTION-TOOKIE, Editing by Eric Walsh; Reuters
Messaging: [email protected]; e-mail
[email protected], 415-677-2541, fax 415-986-5147))