Supporters of former gang leader Stanley “Tookie” Williams say they will continue to fight to clear his name even after his execution. The 51-year-old was killed by lethal injection in California despite desperate attempts to have his case re-opened. This was the golden state’s highest profile execution in decades and stirred up debate about the nature of the death penalty in the US.
William was convicted of killing four people in 1981. Witnesses at his trial said the co-founder of Los Angeles’ notorious Crips gang boasted about what he had done. But supporters say Williams changed fundamentally while in prison, writing books warning young people against joining gangs. He said he had changed all his ideas, and was keen to continue promoting a non-violent message.
But California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger argued Williams’ insistence that he was innocent wiped out any claims that he had reformed himself. Civil right campaigner Reverend Jesse Jackson said: “I think that the killing of Tookie tonight might raise the whole debate about the death penalty, life without parole and other options at another level.”
Joining Jackson in calling for Williams to be spared a lethal injection were actors Sean Penn and Jamie Foxx, rapper Snoop Dogg and folk singer Joan Baez.