Not surprisingly, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied clemency for convicted killer Stanley "Tookie Williams. Williams, a founder of the Crips street gang, is set to die shortly after midnight tonight.
"After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find no justification for granting clemency," Schwarzenegger said, less than 12 hours before the execution, according to the Associated Press. "The facts do not justify overturning the jury's verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case."
Williams had become a cause celebre for Hollywood actors and others who pleaded with Schwarzenegger to spare his life. They argued that Williams had been rehabilitated and had redeemed himself by writing numerous books urging children to avoid the gang lifestyle. Significantly, though, Williams had never admitted to the killings or apologized.
Schwarzenegger could have commuted Williams' sentence to life in prison without parole.
Schwarzenegger's denial was not a surprise, especially after the California Supreme Court unanimously refused to hear a last-minute appeal. Also, political realities made it impossible for Schwarzenegger to grant the first death penalty clemency in California since 1967. Schwarzenegger is nursing wounds from last month's election, in which several ballot iniatitives he supported were defeated. Also, the uproar that sparing Williams' life would have caused amonth the "law and order crowd" and others would have been far louder than what Schwarzenegger will hear from his old colleagues in Hollywood.
I wish Williams were not being executed, not because of any sympathy I have for Williams. I want him to die in prison. However, the only thing more horrendous than the murders he committed is his execution. In the end, that we continue to execute prisoners will always say more about us as a society than it will ever say about the condemned.
If Williams' execution is carried out to night, he will be the 1,002 person in the United States, and the 12th in California, to be executed since the 1976 Supreme Court decision re-instituting the death penalty.