The California Supreme Court on Sunday rejected a last-minute legal effort to block Tuesday's execution of convicted murderer Stanley Tookie Williams, while Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger put off announcing any decision on whether to spare his life until today.
The six sitting justices unanimously denied Williams' lawyer's request for a stay of execution. The Supreme Court, in an order signed by Chief Justice Ronald M. George, indicated that the justices have reviewed all nine claims made by his lawyer and denied each one of them on the merits -- even though "each claim also is barred as untimely and successive," a legal term that means the justices viewed the claims as repetitive.
Williams' attorney Verna Wefald declined to comment. But she already has prepared a petition asking the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to review the case today, and plans to go to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.
Among the claims in her rejected appeal to the state Supreme Court was the assertion that one witness against Williams had an undisclosed history of violent crimes and that a key jailhouse informant had manipulated Williams while he was forcibly drugged by authorities.
Williams, co-founder of the Crips street gang, has become an international figure and the subject of a clemency campaign based on the claim that he has redeemed himself with anti-gang activism from death row. He has denied he committed four murders he was convicted of more than two decades ago.
Williams' supporters on Sunday said they have uncovered new information that would help exonerate him -- information already passed on to the governor.
Alice Huffman, the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People's state president, said the group received a call Thursday from a former Los Angeles County jail inmate who can bolster Williams' allegations that he was framed by police working with a jailhouse informant.
The NAACP contact, Gordon Bradbury von Ellerman, 46, of Los Angeles, said he saw officers deliver police reports about Williams' case to George Oglesby, an inmate who later testified against him. Von Ellerman said he came forward only now because he did not learn until last week that Oglesby had been a witness at Williams' murder trial.
The governor has until midnight tonight to make a clemency decision that would commute Williams' death sentence to life in prison.
Williams is scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. He was convicted of fatally shooting Albert Owens during a 1979 robbery at a 7-Eleven in Pico Rivera, and also of the 1979 murders of South Los Angeles motel owners Yen-I Yang and Tsai-Shai Chen Yang and their daughter, Yu Chin Yang Lin.
At the gates outside San Quentin State Prison, a handful of demonstrators stood silently, displaying signs of support. "We recycle plastic, we recycle glass -- so why throw away a human life when it's been made into something useful?" asked Carma Helzer, the mother of another inmate.
While Sunday was tranquil on the road of million-dollar homes leading to the prison, preparations were underway for a tense vigil Monday night. Some residents had sold parking spaces to TV crews for as much as $2,000, and members of a Berkeley church unloaded 50 white wooden crosses that will be held aloft by protesters if the execution goes forward.
Times staff writer Henry Weinstein contributed to this report.