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Supreme Court rejects Williams' plea

Schwarzenegger denies clemency for former gang leader

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Stanley Tookie Williams
Crime, Law and Justice

SACRAMENTO, California (CNN) -- The U.S. Supreme Court refused to stay the execution Monday of convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams, clearing the way for him to die by injection shortly after midnight.

The high court was the former gang leader's last chance to avoid death by injection after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied him clemency earlier Monday and a federal appeals court panel rejected a request to stay his execution.

Williams, who co-founded the Crips street gang in Los Angeles, is scheduled to die at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday (3:01 a.m. ET) at San Quentin State Prison, near San Francisco.

Civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, who met with Williams earlier in the day, criticized Schwarzenegger for deciding not to spare Williams.

Jackson said Williams, who was convicted of killing four people in two 1979 robberies in Los Angeles, had earned clemency and that Schwarzenegger's decision was about "making politicians look tough, but that does not make it right."

Lora Owens, the stepmother of one of the men Williams was convicted of killing, said she felt "justice is going to be done tonight."

"I had faith that when Governor Arnold looked at the facts of the case that he was going to decide not to do clemency," said Owens, whose 26-year-old stepson, Albert Owens, was shot to death in a February 1979 convenience store holdup in Los Angeles.

"I don't like it being said it's a political decision. It was an evidence decision."

A jury convicted Williams of killing Owens by shooting him twice in the back with a 12-gauge shotgun while the victim was face down on the floor.

The jury also convicted him of shooting and killing an immigrant couple and their 41-year-old daughter less than two weeks later while stealing less than $100 cash from their motel.

Both cases were handled in a single trial. Williams was sentenced to death in 1981.

Schwarzenegger announced his decision not to commute Williams' sentence to life in prison without parole shortly after a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, rejected an affidavit from the convict's lawyers that suggested someone framed him.

California's Supreme Court rejected an emergency request to stay the execution on Sunday.

In their appeal to the 9th Circuit, his attorneys pinned their hopes on the declaration of a new witness -- Gordon Bradbury von Ellerman -- a jail trusty detained with Williams in the Los Angeles County Jail from 1979 to 1980.

In the affidavit, von Ellerman said he was the cellmate of another trusty, identified as George "Roger" Oglesby.

Von Ellerman said Los Angeles Sheriff's Department personnel provided Oglesby with documents to aid him in testifying against Williams in return for reduced or dropped charges.

"I was personally aware that Los Angeles Sheriff's Department personnel would often provide information to these inmates so that they could help frame defendants for crimes," he said in the statement.

A statement from Schwarzenegger read: "The possible irregularities in Williams' trial have been thoroughly and carefully reviewed by the courts, and there is no reason to disturb the judicial decisions that uphold the jury's decisions that he is guilty of these four murders and should pay with his life."

Williams, who would be 52 on December 29, spent part of Monday with his attorneys and family members at San Quentin.

As Williams was being moved to a holding cell next to the death chamber Monday evening, his lead attorney, John Harris, said the convict was "at peace."

But his lawyers have renewed their request for clemency to Schwarzenegger, citing the statements of three new witnesses Harris said could provide exculpatory evidence.

"He's at peace, but we're fighting, and he knows it," Harris said.

A crowd of protesters had begun to gather outside the gates of San Quentin early Monday evening. One demonstrator carried a sign that read, "Don't kill in my name."

While in prison, Williams became an anti-gang crusader, but he has consistently refused to take part in a debriefing with authorities to provide them potentially valuable information about the Crips gangs, said lead prosecutor John Monaghan.

While maintaining his innocence in the four murders, Williams has denounced gang violence and written children's books with an anti-gang message, donating the proceeds to anti-gang community groups. He said he was trying to prevent young people from making the choices he did.

Celebrities, teachers and anti-death penalty advocates have spoken on Williams' behalf, but Schwarzenegger questioned the sincerity of Williams' conversion to nonviolence.

"Stanley Williams insists he is innocent, and that he will not and should not apologize or otherwise atone for the murders of the four victims in this case," the governor wrote.

"Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption."

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