Tookie Williams: Gang Founder Versus Nobel-Nominated Peacemaker

"We would make a huge mistake to take such a valuable asset, such a brilliant source of expertise and throw that life away," said Bruce Gordon, president and chief executive of the NAACP. "It'll cause the lives of others to be lost and that makes absolutely no sense to me."

"He is our secret weapon to help young African-Americans avoid gangs," Gordon continued. "We want to save his life so he can save the lives of others."

Other supporters indicate that Williams' execution would extinguish the hopes of imprisoned gang members considering reform, telling them that no one, no matter what they do to change their ways, is worth saving -- that there is no mercy for the reformed.

"It would send a terrible message if Stan is executed," said Cameron Sturdevant, an organizer of the "Save Tookie" campaign in California and anti-death penalty activist. "It would not only send out a message of vengeance, avenging violence with violence. But also, if someone like Stan can't get clemency, then who can?"

Opportunistic -- and Unrepentant -- Gang Icon?

Williams' detractors say he is not a model of a convict deserving of clemency and that some of his supporters are using him -- as they have other condemned inmates -- to further their own cause. And while Williams has gained notoriety -- and some nationwide sympathy -- his alleged victims and their families have almost been forgotten.

"What's troubling is that you have these celebrities who take up this cause and they don't know anything about the case and they don't know the victims' names or have never met any of the victims' families," said Jared Lewis. "The bottom line is that we still have relatives of his victims who live with what he did every single day. The wounds for them today are as fresh as they were more than 25 years ago."

Lewis also suggests that Williams is opportunistic, taking credit for his good deeds while in prison but not his legacy as a Crips co-founder.

"His supporters say he is reformed, but Mr. Williams has never admitted responsibility [for the slayings] -- he hasn't taken that final step to full reform. And what I find interesting, that he takes credit for saving 1,500 lives but he doesn't mention anything about the lives lost because of the Crips," Lewis said.

Williams' lawyers say he has repeatedly apologized for his past in his children's books and messages to gang members. However, he believes that becoming a police informant would ruin his credibility with the children he is trying to help. They would see him as a snitch and not trust him.

"These children are listening to Stanley because of who he is and what he stands for," said Williams' attorney, Jonathan Harris.

No physical evidence tied Williams to the slayings. Shell casings connected a gun Williams owned to the crime scenes, but his attorneys have challenged the efficiency of the ballistics tests used at the time of his trial. Key prosecution witnesses said that they heard Williams admit to and brag about the slayings.

However, Williams' lawyers have argued that these witnesses had reason to lie: one was an alleged accomplice who was granted immunity while the other was a career criminal. In addition, Williams' attorneys have argued that the prosecution unfairly dismissed all potential black jurors, making the jury that ultimately convicted him racially biased.

In the Governor's Hands

All these appellate arguments have failed. Williams' best chance at life now lies with Schwarzenegger.

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