SAN QUENTIN, Calif. – Stanley “Tookie” Williams, whose self-described evolution from gang thug to anti-violence crusader won him an international following and nominations for a Nobel Peace Prize, was executed by lethal injection early Tuesday, hours after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to spare his life.
His death was announced at 12:35 a.m.
During the execution, the inmate’s friend Barbara Becnel, with whom Williams wrote children’s books, and other supporters mouthed “God bless you” and “We love you” and blew kisses to Williams. Williams also seemed to mouth statements to Becnel.
The entire procedure took longer than usual. The execution team took about 12 minutes to find a vein in Williams’ muscular left arm. While the personnel were probing, Williams repeatedly lifted his head off the gurney, winced visibly, and at one point appeared to say: “Still can’t find it?”
After Williams was pronounced dead, Becnel and two other supporters of Williams turned toward the media in the witness room and yelled in unison, “The state of California just killed an innocent man!”
Lora Owens, murder victim Albert Owens’ stepmother, appeared shaken and was embraced by another woman.
Speaking outside the gates of San Quentin after the execution, Becnel, who is taking possession of Williams’ body, called Schwarzenegger a “cold blooded murderer.”
Despite persistent pleas for mercy from around the globe, the governor earlier in the day had said Williams was unworthy of clemency because he had not admitted his brutal shotgun murders of four people during two robberies 26 years ago.
After the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request for a last-minute stay Monday evening, the co-founder of the infamous Crips street gang, who insisted he was innocent of the murders, became the 12th man executed by the state of California since voters reinstated capital punishment in 1978.
Behind the prison’s thick walls, Williams passed his dwindling hours quietly, visiting with friends and talking on the telephone while under constant watch by guards.
An acquaintance described him sitting at a table, handcuffed, next to untouched turkey sandwiches, bidding goodbye to friends in an ordinary, everyday manner.
A prison spokesman said Williams was calm and upbeat, though he ate nothing but oatmeal and milk all day, refusing the privilege of a special last meal. Williams also declined a spiritual adviser.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said he met twice with Williams, and together with Becnel delivered the news that the governor had denied clemency.
Williams smiled “as if he expected it,” Jackson said. He said Williams again denied his guilt, and said that he thought “his baggage as a Crip was on trial more than for the four murders.”
Officials said he spent the evening watching TV and reading some of the roughly 50 letters that arrived Monday from as far as Italy and Israel, including some from schoolchildren. Many of them said they were praying for him.
Five members of the murder victims’ families were at the prison, although it was not clear how many witnessed the execution. Williams, who earlier said he didn’t want to invite anyone to observe “the sick and perverted spectacle,” had five witnesses, including Becnel and members of his legal team.