SAN FRANCISCO—The California Supreme Court late Sunday refused to grant a stay of execution for convicted killer Stanley "Tookie" Williams, meaning the former gang leader who became an outspoken critic of gang violence will be executed early Tuesday unless the governor grants clemency or a last-ditch federal appeal succeeds.
Williams' supporters also made another pitch directly to the governor Sunday to spare his life, telling Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in a letter that they had a new witness who could help prove Williams' innocence.
"All we need now is time to investigate to make sure this story is real," said NAACP California President Alice Huffman. "We're hoping and praying for clemency, but we're not going to leave any stone unturned."
Schwarzenegger said last week that he was agonizing over Williams' request for clemency.
Prosecutors and family members of the victims have urged him to deny the request, in part because Williams continues to deny guilt in the slayings. No clemency request has been granted in California since 1967, when Ronald Reagan spared a mentally ill killer.
Following the state Supreme Court ruling, lawyers for Williams immediately asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals here to block his looming execution. A decision was expected Monday.
Williams' supporters, an outspoken group ranging from community leaders to actors and rappers, have held rallies in his support and argue that executing Williams would send the wrong message.
They say he has redeemed himself by speaking out against violence and writing children's books on the evils of gang life. During his 24 years at San Quentin, the Crips street gang founder turned his life around to the point that a Swiss legislator, college professors and others repeatedly submitted his name for Nobel peace and literature prizes.
Williams, 51, was condemned for the slaying of a man during a robbery in February 1979 and the deaths of a couple and their daughter at a South Los Angeles motel the following month.
He denies committing the murders but has apologized for founding the Crips, a gang prosecutors blamed for thousands of murders in Los Angeles and beyond.
Williams is scheduled for lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. He would be the 12th inmate executed by the state since California reinstated the death penalty in 1977.
The state Supreme Court ruled 6-0 against staying his execution, saying Williams' last-minute appeal lacked merit and was untimely. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Brault had implored the justices early Sunday to dismiss the petition, writing that it "is without merit and is manifestly designed for delay."
The justices earlier had denied a defense request to reopen the case over allegations that shoddy forensics linked a weapon used in three of the murders to a shotgun registered to Williams.
In the defense request for a stay of execution, attorney Verna Wefald had argued that Los Angeles County prosecutors failed to disclose at trial that witness Alfred Coward was not a U.S. citizen and that he had a violent criminal history. Coward is now in prison in Canada for the murder of a man during a robbery.
"All of the witnesses who implicated Williams were criminals who were given significant incentives to testify against him and ongoing benefits for their testimony," Wefald wrote.
The California Supreme Court, a federal district court judge in Los Angeles, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court have all upheld his convictions.
— The Associates Press