Despite a celebrity campaign to save him, the former Crips member is put to death

By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 13, 2005 07:00 AM

Despite a high-profile, celebrity campaign to save his life, convicted killer Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams – the Crips gang co-founder whose case stirred a national debate about capital punishment and the possibility of redemption – was declared dead after lethal injection in California’s San Quentin execution chamber at 12:35 a.m. Tuesday, officials said.

Williams, 51, had spent 24 years in prison for the murder of four people. Over the weekend, reports NBC News, he spoke to a survivor of one of his victims and re-stated his innocence. Her reply was: “Go with God.”

In the days leading up to the execution, state and federal courts refused to reopen his case. Monday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied Williams’ request for clemency, writing: “Is Williams’ redemption complete and sincere, or is it just a hollow promise? … Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption.”

Williams was condemned for gunning down convenience store clerk Albert Owens, 26, at a 7-Eleven in Whittier and killing Yen-I Yang, 67, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, 63, and the couple’s daughter Ye-Chen Lin, 43, at the Los Angeles motel they owned in 1979. Williams claimed he was innocent.

Witnesses at the trial said Williams boasted about the killings, saying: “You should have heard the way he sounded when I shot him.” Williams then made a growling noise and laughed for five to six minutes, according to the transcript that the governor referenced in his denial of clemency, reports the Associated Press.

Williams was the 12th person executed in California since lawmakers reinstated the death penalty in 1977.

Among the celebrities who argued that Williams’s sentence should be commuted to life in prison because he had made amends by writing children’s books about the dangers of gangs and violence were Jamie Foxx, who played the gang leader in a cable movie about Williams; rapper Snoop Dogg, himself a former Crip; Sister Helen Prejean, the nun depicted in Dead Man Walking. During Williams’s time behind bars, a Swiss legislator, college professors and others nominated him for the Nobel Prizes in peace and literature.

“There is no part of me that existed then that exists now,” Williams said recently during an interview with AP.