SACRAMENTO – Lawyers for Stanley Tookie Williams pleaded for his life before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday, five days before the founder of the murderous Crips gang — now a peace activist — is scheduled to be executed.
The governor is considering pleas echoed by Hollywood actors, death penalty opponents and others to grant clemency so Williams can continue his work convincing young people to reject violence.
Prosecutors in Thursday's closed-door clemency hearing, however, told Schwarzenegger that Williams deserves death for four shotgun murders in 1979.
"The evidence in this case is truly overwhelming and the murders were senseless and very brutal and Mr. Williams should pay the ultimate penalty for his crimes," prosecutor John Monaghan said at a news conference after the hearing.
Williams, scheduled to die by injection at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, would be the 12th California death row inmate executed since the state restored the death penalty in 1977. His attorneys hope the governor makes him the first granted clemency since Ronald Reagan spared a mentally ill killer in 1967.
Defense lawyer Peter Fleming Jr. told reporters after the meeting that "Stanley Williams was a person worth fighting for."
Williams' lawyers say he should be spared because his teachings from behind bars — through a series of books and talks by phone — have convinced youths to avoid gangs.
Schwarzenegger gave each side about 30 minutes to present their cases. He has said it will be a difficult decision, which he could make at any point until the moment of execution. He was not expected to rule Thursday, an aide said.
Neither side would comment on what was said in the meeting, which was held as more than 100 death penalty opponents rallied outside the Capitol, chanting, "Love life, save Stan's life."
"We implore you, governor, to find it in your heart. Talk to God. Save Tookie so that he can save others' lives," said Donald Lacy, 46, of Oakland. Lacy said he wanted vengeance after his 16-year-old daughter was killed by gang members in 1997, but later decided forgiveness was more rewarding.
Celebrities also have taken up Williams' cause.
After meeting with the condemned killer Thursday, actor Jamie Foxx, who portrayed him in a television movie, pleaded for the governor to save his life.
"Don't kill this guy. Don't kill him," Foxx said at a news conference at Oakland International Airport. "We've got our fingers crossed."
Schwarzenegger's aides have said the governor could make his decision over the weekend or wait as late as Monday.
Granting clemency for Williams could further erode Schwarzenegger's support within his own party, which is upset over his hiring of a prominent Democrat as his new chief of staff.
On Thursday, a grassroots group representing the party's more conservative wing called on GOP leaders to reconsider their endorsement of Schwarzenegger in the 2006 election.
If clemency is denied, Fleming said, there isn't much of a case to bring to the federal courts, because he would have to demonstrate that Williams is innocent.
"We're not in a position to do that," he said Wednesday.
Williams was convicted of killing Yen-I Yang, 76, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, 63, and Yu-Chin Yang Lin, 43, in a robbery at a Los Angeles motel the family owned, and Albert Owens, 26, a 7-Eleven clerk, in a separate robbery in the Los Angeles suburb of Whittier.
Prosecutors, California's attorney general and victims' relatives have demanded Williams' execution. Prosecutors and other law enforcement authorities say that the Crips are responsible for thousands of deaths and that Williams has refused to own up to his crimes and inform on his gang cohorts.