Video: Death row interview

msnbc.com
updated 12/12/2005 4:25:52 PM ET 2005-12-12T21:25:52

Editor's note: On Nov. 28, MSNBC's Rita Cosby talked with Stanley 'Tookie' Williams in an exclusive interview for her 'Live and Direct' program. She is scheduled to be a witness to his execution early Tuesday morning.

To read an excerpt from the interview, continue to the text below:

RITA COSBY: How are you holding up?

STANLEY "TOOKIE" WILLIAMS, DEATH ROW INMATE:  I'm doing as well as could be expected.  My faith sustains me, so I'm doing exceptionally well.

COSBY:  Are you afraid of dying?

WILLIAMS:  Well, no.  Akin to any sensible human being, I want to live, but I must say I'm that mis-educated about mortality because no one has ever come back and-you know, to actually brief me on what to expect.  So I'm quite ignorant in that particular area.

COSBY:  Are you worried, like any other human being, facing your mortality?

WILLIAMS:  No, because I'm at peace.  I've become a man of peace.  My redemption keeps me strong.  So no, I'm not.

COSBY:  Why shouldn't you be executed?

WILLIAMS:  Well, first and foremost, I'm innocent.  And secondly, being allowed to live enables me to continue to disseminating my positive message to youth and adults throughout this country and abroad.  And you know, lastly, being able to live, it would allow me to inevitably prove my innocence.

COSBY:  Why have you not expressed remorse for the four killings which you've been convicted of?

WILLIAMS:  Well, because as you and I both know, conviction does not denote guilt.  And I've been proclaiming my innocence for the longest.  So for me to express remorse or an apology, that would, as I stated before, connote culpability, which I'm not.  In fact, it would be disingenuous on my part.

COSBY:  Why do you think a jury convicted you, then?

WILLIAMS:  A jury convicted me because of the simple fact that there was an all-white jury and because was strategy that the prosecutor at that time, Robert Martin -- he was the DA -- because of the strategy that he used, the prosecutorial misconduct, the exclusion of exculpatory evidence and things of that nature, it was quite easy for them to convict me.  I mean, sitting there -- here I was, a black man, extremely muscular, and I fit the bill, in a sense.

COSBY:  Do you think, then, if they execute you that they're executing an innocent man, in your opinion?

WILLIAMS:  I don't think that, I know that.  It is a fact.

COSBY:  But as the leader -- as the co-founder of the Crips, you have to admit you did some bad things, correct?

WILLIAMS:  I've done many bad things, but nothing of this magnitude, that's for sure.  And despite the fact that I was a predator...

COSBY:  Do you believe you were framed because you were the co-founder of the Crips because you were so highly visible?

San Quentin Prison

WILLIAMS:  Oh, without a doubt.  Without a doubt.  There's no doubt in my mind about that.  You're absolutely correct.  That's exactly what's happened.

COSBY:  Do you think if you expressed remorse that the governor might be more inclined to grant you clemency?

WILLIAMS:  But see, it would be craziness for me to express remorse for a crime or crimes that I did not commit.  That would be totally against my convictions.  It would be wrong to express remorse for something I didn't do.  I'm sure you yourself, or any sound-minded individual in society, would not admit to anything that they didn't commit.  It would be wrong.  It would be foolish.

COSBY:  Now, if you could sit across from the governor right now, what would you say to him, Stanley?

WILLIAMS:  I'm innocent.  And if I am allowed to live, if I receive clemency or an indefinite stay, then it would enable me to continue proliferating my messages to young adults and other individuals, as well.  And inevitably, I believe that if I'm alive, I'd be able to prove my innocence.

COSBY:  Who do you think committed these crimes, if it wasn't you?  Do you know who did it?

WILLIAMS:  No I don't.  I haven't the slightest idea.

COSBY:  Do you think the governor will offer you clemency?  What's your gut telling you?  Are you optimistic?

San Quentin Prison
WILLIAMS:  I have faith.  And I deal with reality.  Whatever comes, comes.  I will face it, whatever it is.  That's the only way that I know how to address things of that ilk.  I'm not the person to dwell upon hypotheticals.

COSBY:  Were you surprised that he said he was going to hold this hearing now on December 8?

WILLIAMS:  Well, I mean, that's a good thing.  It is a good thing. ... It beats him not being apathetic.

COSBY:  What was your reaction when you heard that the governor will hold a hearing for your clemency?

WILLIAMS:  Well, it was more like-I said, There's a chance.  There's a chance, I mean, but the final deliberation is his.

COSBY:  Stanley, what do you think your odds are that you could get clemency, that the governor's going to grant it?

WILLIAMS:  Oh, that's a hypothetical.  I don't know.  I don't know.  All I can do is pray that I do receive clemency or, you know, some type of relief from the courts.

COSBY:  Are you optimistic?

WILLIAMS:  I feel good.

COSBY:  If the victims' families are watching tonight, what do you want to say to them?

WILLIAMS:  I empathize with any family, you know, who has lost a loved one, and you know, I regret that that happened to their family.  But honestly, you know, I can't express remorse or make an apology for crimes I did not commit.

COSBY: You've gotten a lot of support from lots of celebrities, like Jamie Foxx and Snoop Dogg.  What do you make of this?

WILLIAMS:  Well, I mean, as I was saying earlier, I'm grateful.  I appreciate all the help I can get from celebrities and others alike, politicians and what have you.

COSBY:  The American public is going to be watching this interview.  What do you want to say to them?

WILLIAMS:  Well, I mean, the fact of the matter is, is that I am innocent-I must say that once again-and that this case is rife with improprieties.  There is no tangible evidence whatsoever linking me to these capital crimes.  That's why I'm innocent.  Everything is predicated on hearsay from individuals with irreputable backgrounds facing capital punishment themselves for other murders or what have you.

COSBY:  Officials at the California Department of Corrections say that you're still essentially associating with gang members, still running the gang from prison.  What do you say to that?

WILLIAMS:  That's absurd.

COSBY:  Why do you think they're saying that now?

WILLIAMS:  Oh, because it's nearing the time when I'm scheduled to be executed.  That's why they're saying that.

COSBY:  Have you denounced gang life 100 percent?

WILLIAMS:  Yes, I have, and I continue to do so through my books and through my memoir and through conference calls, my Web site and everything that I am about.

COSBY:  Do you regret starting the Crips?

WILLIAMS:  Well, of course I regret that.  It's -- the legacy is sanguinary and it's nothing to be proud of.

COSBY:  I was reading somewhere, I think it's "The Guardian" newspaper, Stanley -- it said that you and the governor actually ran into each other in the '70s, when he was an actor and you were in the gangs.  You were on the beach, and he actually complimented you on your physique because you've always been, you know, a body builder and working out and physically fit.  Is that true?

WILLIAMS:  Well, on my arms.  He was telling his female companion that, Those aren't arms, those are legs.  I was exceptionally muscular back then.

COSBY:  What are you doing to prepare, should the governor not grant you clemency?  Are you looking at last-minute appeals?  Have you thought about even somehow getting a hold of the president?

WILLIAMS:  No.  No.  No.  My attorneys are handling all of that.  I leave all of the technical aspects of the appeal up to them.

COSBY:  Will there be last-minute appeals, do you think?

WILLIAMS:  It would be a dereliction of duty on their part if they didn't continue to exhaust every wherewithal, you know, that there is, so...

COSBY:  Should it get to it where you're not granted clemency and no appeals work, you have to make preparations.  What have you thought about doing your last 24 hours?  Who do you want there?  What about your last meal, Stanley?

WILLIAMS:  I accept no last meal.  I don't want anyone to be there.  Who would I possibly want to see me die?  So I wouldn't have no one there.  I want no meal from this place.

COSBY:  How do you think history will remember you, Stanley?

WILLIAMS:  Well, it'll probably be in tandem with my sanguinary legacy and my legacy of redemption.

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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