The nation's leading civil rights organization Thursday announced plans to mount a tour of four cities in California on behalf of convicted killer Stanley Tookie Williams, in a last-minute bid to petition Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to halt Williams' execution, now set for Dec. 13.
John C. White, the NAACP's director of communications, told MSNBC.com that the NAACP's new president and chief executive officer Bruce Gordon would be on the tour with the organization's state president and other officials.
White said petitions — “30,000-plus is my understanding” — will be delivered to the governor’s office. “We certainly hope it helps increase public support for the position of clemency for Mr. Williams,” White said Thursday. “Hopefully the governor is influenced by that to some degree.”
The tour begins Dec. 6 in Los Angeles, and goes on to San Diego, Sacramento and San Francisco.
“I am convinced that our community is best served if Stan is alive and contributing to the guidance of our youth,” Gordon said in a Thursday press release. “He is a one-of-a-kind human asset who needs to exercise his unique ability to touch the lives of young people.”
High court won't bar execution
The California Supreme Court refused Wednesday to halt the execution of Williams, the Crips gang founder who became an anti-gang activist while in prison and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
In a last-ditch legal move, defense attorneys petitioned the high court earlier this month, alleging shoddy forensic testing and other errors may have wrongly sent Williams to San Quentin State Prison, where he is scheduled die by injection.
The defense derided as “junk science” ballistics evidence showing that a shotgun registered to Williams was used to kill three people during a 1979 motel robbery. The attorneys asked the court to allow re-examination of the evidence.
Prosecutors argued there was no good reason to reopen Williams’ case. Allegations about the shotgun evidence were based not on fact but on “innuendo, supposition and the patent bias of his purported expert,” prosecutors said.
Defense bid rejected without comment
The high court voted 4-2 without comment to deny the inmate’s petition. Gov. Schwarzenegger or a federal court could still intervene to spare the 51-year-old Williams.
Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer, expressed satisfaction with Wednesday’s ruling.
“The extraordinary relief Williams sought is reserved for those cases which have legal merit,” he said.
Williams, condemned in 1981, has maintained his innocence. Among his claims is that fabricated testimony sent him to death row. He also says prosecutors violated his rights when they dismissed all potential black jurors from his case.
The California Supreme Court, federal trial and appeals courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court have already ruled against him in earlier appeals.
Schwarzenegger asked for clemency
Williams is asking for clemency from Schwarzenegger for killing Yen-I Yang, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang and Yu-Chin Yang Lin in the motel robbery, and Albert Owens, a 7-Eleven clerk gunned down in a separate killing.
Clemency would commute his sentence to life without parole.
While in prison, Williams has campaigned for an end to youth gang violence and written a series of children’s books. He has been nominated five times for the Nobel Peace Prize and four times for the Nobel Prize for literature.
Williams and a high school friend started the Crips in Los Angeles in 1971 and it grew into one of the nation’s most notorious street gangs.
MSNBC.com's Michael E. Ross contributed to this report.