SACRAMENTO – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday weighed the fate of death row inmate Stanley 'Tookie' Williams, whose plea for clemency appeared to be the last chance to stop his execution.
Defense lawyers made their final pitch behind closed doors to Schwarzenegger on Thursday to spare Williams' life because of good deeds on death row while Los Angeles County prosecutors said he should be put to 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 clemency hearing.
Williams is scheduled to die Tuesday by lethal injection at San Quentin State Prison. He would be the 12th inmate executed since California reinstated the death penalty in 1977.
Defense lawyer Peter Fleming Jr. told reporters after the private meeting with the governor that "Stanley Williams was a person worth fighting for."
Neither side would comment on what was said in the meeting that was held as more than 100 death penalty opponents rallied outside the Capitol, chanting, "Love life, save Stan's life."
Clemency, which would commute a death sentence to life without parole, is likely the last chance for the gangster-turned-preacher of peace.
"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.
Schwarzenegger gave each side about 30 minutes to present their cases. He previously said it would be a difficult decision, which he could make up to the moment of execution. He was not expected to rule Thursday, an aide said.
The last California governor to grant clemency was Ronald Reagan, who spared a mentally ill killer in 1967.
Last week, the California Supreme Court rejected a defense request to reopen Williams' case because of allegations that shoddy forensics connected him to at least three of the killings. The federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, also have ruled against Williams, who was convicted and sentenced to death in 1981.
If clemency is denied, there isn't much of a case to bring to the federal courts, where Fleming said he would have to demonstrate that Williams is innocent.
"We're not in a position to do that," he said Wednesday. "If we fail as counsel, a man dies."
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 gunned down in a separate robbery in Whittier.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and some family members of the victims told Schwarzenegger in writing that Williams should die. Prosecutors and crime victim advocates have said the Crips gang that Williams co-founded with a friend in 1971 is responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths, and that he should not live because he denies his guilt.
Williams lawyers want him spared because his teachings from behind bars — through a series of books and talks by phone — have convinced youths to avoid gangs.
The effort to save Williams has been led by celebrities who say he has redeemed himself on death row.
After meeting with the condemned killer Thursday, actor Jamie Foxx who portrayed him in a television movie, pleaded with the governor to save his life.
"Don't kill this guy. Don't kill him," Foxx said. "We've got our fingers crossed."