SAN QUENTIN, Calif. – FOX News correspondent Adam Housley was one of 39 people who witnessed the Tuesday morning execution of Stanley Tookie Williams.
Williams was convicted in 1981 for gunning down convenience store clerk Albert Owens, 26, at a 7-Eleven in Whittier, Calif., and killing Yen-I Yang, 76, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, 63, as well as the couple's daughter Yu-Chin Yang Lin, 43, at the Los Angeles motel they owned. Williams claimed he was innocent, but witnesses at the trial said he boasted about the killings, saying, "You should have heard the way he sounded when I shot him."
This is Housley's report of Tookie Williams' last minutes:
I have seen death before, but never actually witnessed a last breath. Tonight that changed.
Tonight I saw the deep breaths of nervousness, the breaths of annoyance when an IV couldn't be inserted easily ... and the last quick breaths of air as a man's chest went still. This man wasn't a friend, a member of my family, or even an acquaintance. This man was convicted of brutally murdering four innocent people and later bragging about how he watched their last breaths. Tonight I saw his.
The timeline is actually long and detailed. I have shortened it, without detracting from the important facts or feelings. The most captivating: the moment when 39 men and women walk into a light tan room and gaze through protected glass as this convicted killer, Stanley Tookie Williams, is brought in, strapped down and put to death.
The timeline goes like this, from 12:29 p.m. Monday in California until 2:57 a.m. Tuesday.
Monday, Dec. 12: Preparing to Witness Death
12:29 p.m. I have been picked as a witness to the Williams execution. We all await the governor's decision. Clemency from Arnold Schwarzenegger is really the last hope for Williams and those who say he should live. It is at this time that I get the tip — clemency is denied, and I call the word in to our crews.
12:31 p.m. The drive to San Quentin Prison begins. I arrive at the location outside the prison's east gate a short time later. News crews line the road, and some protesters have arrived. In the background, I see San Pablo Bay and the Richmond San Rafael Bridge. This location is beautiful; the men who are housed here are not.
6:30 p.m. At this point, we leave for the west gate of San Quentin. It is here the witnesses and media crews will gather. Satellite trucks are lined up; I am sitting in ours waiting for the officers to wave us into the outer range of the prison.
7:04 p.m. We get clearance and we drive through the first gate of San Quentin. Our truck is searched; we are patted down and then issued a pass depending on our clearance. Our satellite truck operators get blue media passes and I receive a gold badge, which signifies a witness to the execution. We then are escorted on a short drive to a location outside the San Quentin Prison main wall, but just in front of the main building.
9 p.m. Our first briefing inside the prison. We're told that Williams has refused most of his rights. He requested no last meal, is watching little television and spends most of his time on the phone. He had six visitors, he spoke with each individually and then all of them together at the end of his meetings. The convicted killer also received a bundle of 50 letters, all spiritual in nature.
9:14 p.m. The 17 media witnesses are separated from the rest of the media mass. We are escorted into a small room, then out a side door into a shuttle. Our trip is very short, maybe 100 yards or so. We go through yet another gate, this time we stop at the historical main building. Here we receive a quick briefing about grief or psychological effects we might feel after watching an execution. The talk is short, to the point and understood. We then return, via shuttle, back through the gate and join the rest of the media.
11 p.m. I am now removing all my personal effects. Inside the viewing room I will be allowed only the clothes I am wearing and a watch. Off comes all jewelry; no money, no wallet, not even a receipt in my pocket is allowed. A pencil and sheets of paper will be provided once we get inside the main prison fence line. I give my outer coat and effects to my producer and prepare to load into the shuttle.
11:14 p.m. I am escorted onto the shuttle along with 16 other media witnesses.
We are taken to the employee lounge, which is inside the main gate of San Quentin, but just outside of the east block, which is death row. Here we are patted down and each witness is assigned a prison guard escort.
11:52 p.m. Ten prison officers form a makeshift wall that lines our path from the lounge area, perpendicular across a small road and into the death chamber viewing area.
11:53 p.m. I watch as the other witnesses enter the death chamber viewing area; we are guided into the room right behind them.
11:54 p.m. We enter the death chamber witness room, which I am told is called the execution chamber witness gallery. The exterior door is similar to what you see on a warship, or some cruise liners. It is heavy, metal, and large rivets are visible. There is also a cell door that has been opened. The room itself is small, tan and has 20-foot ceilings. We are escorted to the east wall and are asked to stand on two risers, similar to ones used by church choirs. Everything is tan, except the chamber. It protrudes like half of a giant octagon into our narrow rectangular room. The execution chamber is all green. On the outside, on the inside and even the table and its pads -- all green. There is a tan railing about a foot from the thick glass; it curves around the chamber. The setup reminds me of being at an aquarium. The execution chamber looks like a tank and is obviously airtight. The room is dim and there are about 12 people sitting in folding chairs that line the railing. The media is on risers on the east wall, official witnesses on risers on the south wall and Tookie Williams' chosen witnesses (he is allowed 5) are on risers on the west wall.
11:58 p.m. Five prison officers escort the prisoner into the room. Williams appears older than the pictures, his hair is speckled gray and cut short. He wears wire-rimmed glasses and a light blue short-sleeve shirt. His pants are dark blue and he wears white socks. He is chained around his waist, and that chain is attached to handcuffs. He shows no fight as officers lay him down on the green padded doctor's table. He is strapped across the ankles with large black straps. His chest is large and expands and contracts deeply and rapidly; it appears he is nervous. Outside I can hear helicopters faintly; they have circled San Quentin for several hours, providing security.
Tuesday, Dec. 13: Execution Day
12:01a.m. Williams has a short gray speckled beard. He raises his head a bit as prison officers fix more large black straps across his knees. His arms are secured next and he turns his head to the left. From that vantage he can see his five allowed witnesses — two lawyers, three friends. They exchange glances and nods and he mouths words to them that we cannot see. At this point, the convict is strapped at the waist and a shoulder harness is attached. Cables from the heart monitor can be seen running from under his shirt into the chamber's back area and into a heart monitor machine.
12:03 a.m. The officers finish the securing of Williams, the handcuffs and chains are removed in favor of the straps. All prison personnel inside the chamber now wear surgical gloves. Up until now, we have seen only men in the room with Williams, but the officer who enters with the medical supplies is a woman. She quickly inserts an IV into the convict's right arm.
I still hear helicopters outside and the room is eerily quiet. We were warned that no talking, loud sobbing, or outbursts would be allowed. The only sound besides the distant helicopters comes from pencils writing feverishly onto lined paper, reporters making every effort to get every detail as the execution process and protocol continues just 8 feet or so from where I am standing.
In the room, all witnesses are fixated on the process behind the glass. The metal strips that separate the panes still remind me of being at an aquarium, or inside a submarine. As Williams continues to mouth words to his witnesses, his attorney begins to sway nervously. He looks down at the ground; he and Williams will eventually make eye contact and nod at each other.
12:08 a.m. There seems to be some problem finding a good vein and attaching the second IV to Williams' left arm. As the prison officers struggle with the IV, Williams raises his head fully for the first time. He is strapped down tightly. He appears to look over his body and assess his predicament. He sighs and puts his head back down.
12:10 a.m. After surveying the room with the head movement he is allowed, Williams turns his head to his right. He stares at the media. It is a long look and one that attempts to pierce our being in the room. There is no mistaking, even as this man awaits death, he is attempting to be in control, he wants to intimidate. He stops after about 10 seconds or so. His breathing is still deep and nervously quick. His massive chest continues to fluctuate distinctly.
12:14 a.m. As the work continues to find a vein in Williams' left arm (the process took about 12 minutes), he sighs and then leans his head up and says disgustingly, "still can't find it." The female officer rises up, she is sweating, and with the back of her wrist she wipes her brow. You can tell the stress is building and it is beginning to penetrate the glass and envelop many in the room.
12:17 a.m. The IV process is finally finished. The room is now getting heavy, the air thick and warming. Two officers now take rolls of adhesive tape and tape the convict's wrists, hands and fingers. Williams now looks like he has two casts on his hands, it is obvious we will see no movement when he is put to death. Williams continues to look left and continues to mouth words to his supporters.
12:19 a.m. Now that the body has been prepared, the table is unhooked and swung around. No longer are we looking at Williams' right side, we now see the top of his head. There is no sweat and he continues to breathe deeply. Williams once again looks over his predicament, he now has to strain to see his supporters. His attorney smiles and nods his head. Williams wiggles his toes inside his white socks.
12:21 a.m. A small metal round hole opens in the vault-like door that separates the execution chamber from the viewing room. A paper is handed through that is read by an officer inside our viewing room. Her words echo through the chamber. The announcement ends with, "Stanley Williams has been found guilty of first degree murder and special circumstances … the execution shall now proceed."
12:22 a.m. Williams looks around one last time and nods his head toward his five witnesses/supporters. One woman covers her face.
12:24 a.m. The first drug is administered into the IV, followed by two more. Williams gulps several times. He appears to pass out as his deep quick breaths become shorter. They become quicker and shorter by the second. His large chest begins to move slower and his toes no longer move, his head no longer strains or moves.
12:25 a.m. The room is still silent. Pencils work furiously. People strain to see any movement by Williams. Witnesses shift nervously and his lawyer looks away. The convict is still.
12:34 a.m. The witness room seems to be getting smaller. People shift from one leg to another. We still hear the helicopters and the pencils and we also hear talking inside the airtight execution chamber. We cannot discern what is being said, we believe it is the attending doctor confirming the inmate has now been put to death.
12:36 a.m. The small hole in the door is opened again and another note is passed through to a guard. Her words once again echo through this stale environment. She says in part, "May I have your attention please, Warden Steve Ornoski declares inmate Stanley Williams dead." Pronounced dead at 12:35 a.m. by the attending physician. The room is now still. The pencils have stopped, the helicopters cannot be heard, and a few of the victim's family members have begun to quietly cry.
12:37 a.m. The lifeless body strapped is still strapped to the table. There are no officers in the room, he is alone and the subject of stares. Two officers now undo two sets of curtains that are pale tan and similar to shower curtains. They slide them around the semicircle rods and separate the dead inmate from our room. The first to be led out are the Williams supporters. His two legal counsels leave without incident or comment. The same cannot be said for the three others. Two women and one man in chorus yell, "The State of California has murdered an innocent man." Their words catch the room by surprise and a family member of one of the victims is consoled. She is Laura Owens, the stepmother of Albert Owens, who was shot twice in the back by Williams. Owens' last breath was touted by the killer to his friends. Now Williams' last breath has been witnessed by 39 people who will tell of this experience to the world.
12:38 a.m. We file out of the room, meet again with our assigned guards and are escorted back onto the shuttle. We then are taken back to the media staging area inside the outer prison wall. There we give a press conference and recount our thoughts and experiences.
My closing thoughts are simple: I was nervous at first, unsure what to expect. I now understand this process is choreographed down to the number of surgical gloves in the execution chamber. The lethal injection execution is clinical, it is sterile and in the minds of a great majority of California voters, it is a just process. I leave with an understanding and with an experience I will never forget. My thoughts as I sit here outside the damp cold gates of San Quentin are with the victims and the incredible hurt their families have endured and will endure throughout their lifetimes. Stanley Tookie Williams has paid the ultimate price. And as the governor stated, he never seemed to show any remorse.
Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.