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Gov. Quiet on Williams' Fate

Prosecutors and lawyers for the convicted killer make their arguments as his execution date nears.

December 09, 2005|Jenifer Warren | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The fate of Stanley Tookie Williams rested in the hands of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday after lawyers for the condemned man made a final plea for his life and prosecutors said his crimes merit society's harshest punishment.

After hearing attorneys' arguments during a private, 75-minute meeting, Schwarzenegger made no comment and aides could not say how soon he would decide whether to grant Williams clemency.

"He will deliberate as long as it takes to make a conscientious, fair and just decision," press secretary Margita Thompson said. She said Schwarzenegger would release a written statement as early as today or as late as Monday.

Unless the governor acts or a court intervenes, the four-time convicted murderer and co-founder of the Crips street gang will die by lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, becoming the 12th man executed in California since 1978.

None of the lawyers would disclose details of their presentations during the morning session, which took place in the governor's Ronald Reagan Cabinet Room, nor would they characterize Schwarzenegger's reaction.

The governor, seated at the long wooden table that dominates the nondescript conference room, was accompanied by legal affairs secretary Andrea Hoch, advisor Peter Siggins and two other members of his legal team. He did not ask questions, but received a letter from Williams, the contents of which were not disclosed, and viewed some material on a large screen.

Williams' attorneys had hoped to present a videotaped plea from the death row inmate, but San Quentin Warden Steven Ornoski denied the request. Tape-recording of prisoners has been restricted since a gun smuggled inside a recording device figured in a bloody uprising at the prison in 1971 that left inmate George Jackson and five others, including three guards, dead.

Asked to assess the chances of clemency, Peter Fleming Jr., the lead lawyer arguing for Williams at the meeting, told reporters, "I'm not an oddsmaker."

Fleming, who earlier in the week called the governor "a man of courage and independence," said he is "frightened to death" that his client will be executed rather than be permitted to live out his life behind bars.

Los Angeles County prosecutors, meanwhile, said Schwarzenegger was gracious during the hearing. In remarks to the media, Deputy Dist. Atty. John Monaghan said Williams deserved to die for the senseless and brutal shotgun murders of four people during two robberies in Los Angeles in 1979.

Monaghan also said that the considerable public support for Williams should "absolutely not" sway Schwarzenegger.

"The evidence in this case is truly overwhelming," Monaghan said, and Williams "should pay the ultimate penalty for his crimes."

Williams was convicted of killing Albert Owens during the robbery of a 7-Eleven on Whittier Boulevard, and motel owners Yen-I Yang and Tsai-Shai Chen Yang and their daughter, Yu-Chin Yang Lin, who were murdered at the Brookhaven Motel on South Vermont Avenue 12 days later. He has said he is not guilty of the murders, for which he has been imprisoned 24 years.

On Thursday, Fleming said that when he met Williams, he told the inmate, "If you did this, you should confess to it because it will help."

According to Fleming, Williams responded: "If my innocence will cost me my life, so be it."

Williams has confessed to many robberies and assaults, specifically in his memoir, "Blue Rage, Black Redemption."

Williams said he recruited members to the Crips, and that the gang terrorized South-Central in the 1970s. In interviews, he has said that his biggest regret in life was his role in starting the Crips.

"Like locusts we swarmed and stripped people of their valuables -- and then melted quickly away," he wrote.

In pleading for clemency, Williams argues that he has transformed himself from a violent thug into a force for social good, one who can dissuade young people from pursuing the destructive life he once led.

He has written children's books and taken other steps to warn youths about the perils of the gangster life.

"You don't fake that for 13 years," Fleming said of Williams' efforts, which began after years in solitary following an initial period of bad behavior behind bars. "A football player responds best to a coach who has played football.... Stanley Williams has been where these at-risk children are."

Prosecutors say that because he has refused to take responsibility for the murders, Williams should not be judged a redeemed man deserving of mercy.

Law enforcement officials, including Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton and Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca, have strongly opposed clemency. They call Williams a coldblooded killer and a founding father of one of the nation's most vicious gangs.

While the lawyers made their arguments inside the Capitol, about 100 supporters at a rally outside urged the governor to show mercy.

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