Guests: John Ritter, Earl Murr, Al Featherstone, Michael Tomlinson, Lora Owens, Zane Smith, Chico Brown, Jesse Jackson, Nina Salarno Ashford, Fred Davis Jackson, Arthur Barens, Robert McCullough, Natasha Minsker, Mike Farrell
RITA COSBY, HOST: Good evening, everybody. As you just heard, I am now reporting LIVE AND DIRECT from outside San Quentin state prison here in California. And in just a matter of hours, former gang leader Stanley “Tookie” Williams will be executed, if everything goes as scheduled. He is scheduled to be executed at 12:01 local time, just a few hours from now, by lethal injection for the brutal murders of four people. And I will be among a handful of witnesses who‘ve actually chosen as a witness to his death.
But Williams‘s lawyers are not giving up. Just a few minutes ago, we found out that they are asking the Supreme Court to delay the execution. Just a few hours ago, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to grant Williams clemency. In a statement explaining his decision, Schwarzenegger said, quote, “Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption.”
And I‘m joined now by reporter John Ritter, who‘s been following this case very closely, with “USA Today.” John, first of all, no surprise that there‘s this last-minute filing with the U.S. Supreme Court.
JOHN RITTER, “USA TODAY”: None at all. In fact, I‘d be surprised if they didn‘t file. What would be surprising is if they gave him a stay. I don‘t think anybody expects the Court to.
COSBY: Yes, and it didn‘t seem like anybody expected Governor Schwarzenegger. It was promising when there was a sense of a hearing, but most people, you look at the politics, particularly in California, the odds were against Tookie Williams.
RITTER: Yes, that‘s true, although there was some talk that because the governor took so long and studied it so closely that maybe he was—and was spending the weekend with his wife, Maria, maybe he was possibly leaning towards clemency. But in the end, obviously, no.
COSBY: What is the sense, John? You‘ve been out here, outside the gates here of San Quentin in the last few hours or so. We can see a lot of people coming here. What‘s the mood of the people you‘ve talked to?
RITTER: Well, it‘s overwhelmingly in support of Tookie Williams, death penalty opponents, which is typical of an execution scene the night of. Probably, as the night goes on, there‘ll be a few who are in favor of the death penalty, but that‘ll be definitely in the minority.
COSBY: If you can hang with us, John, because I was the last person to actually do a television with Stanley “Tookie” Williams. I talked to him about his preparation for the death penalty. Here‘s what he told me just about a week or so ago, about a week-and-a-half ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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 hold of the president?
STANLEY “TOOKIE” WILLIAMS, DEATH ROW INMATE: 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—who would possibly want to see me die? So I would 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And that was Stanley Tookie Williams talking to me just about a week-and-a-half ago, when he was behind bars, knowing that the only last hope in his mind was Governor Schwarzenegger. He did tell me that there would be some last-minute appeals. And again, the new news that we just learned just a few minutes ago, his attorneys have done a filing with the U.S. Supreme Court. However, it‘s highly unlikely that they will accept anything because all the other lower courts have reviewed this case thoroughly, and so far, have rejected it out in full.
Let me bring back in John Ritter with “USA Today.” The clock is ticking here. You can tell a lot of anticipation, a lot of thoughts here with a lot of folks out here. What is Tookie Williams doing now, John?
RITTER: Well, he‘s probably, perhaps, seeing some last-minute visitors. There‘s some—the prison—things loosen up a little bit on his last day, and he gets pretty good discretion about who he can see.
COSBY: We were just told Jesse Jackson actually just went in a few minutes ago.
RITTER: And he had been in earlier in the day. Tookie has apparently declined a last meal. He‘s asked that no family or friends witness the execution. He feels that‘s inhumane, for one human to watch another human die. So you know, he‘s sort of just waiting, at this point, like we all are.
COSBY: What about clothes? I understand he got some new clothes.
RITTER: It‘s standard procedure for an inmate who‘s going to be executed to get a new pair of denim jeans and new denim chambray shirt. So he‘ll get that, and...
COSBY: As the clock ticks away...
RITTER: ... as the clock ticks away. I mean, it‘s a pretty structured thing. And as prison officials have taken pains to point out, they try to have as much dignity and respect for Tookie, or for any condemned person as possible.
COSBY: John Ritter, thank you very much. We appreciate your insight.
RITTER: Thank you.
COSBY: I know you‘ve been following this case. Last time I was here at San Quentin, I think you were here, as well, getting a tour, as well.
So the big question is, What is it like inside those prison walls? Well, we‘re going to talk now to some folks who have been there, who know that system very well.
Let me bring in first, if I could, Al Featherstone. He‘s a former San Quentin inmate. Al, first of all, if you can tell me, what do you think is going on through Tookie Williams‘s mind right now?
AL FEATHERSTONE, FORMER SAN QUENTIN INMATE: Probably, Tookie is having his last meal, and he‘s just having some thoughts about—his whole life is probably going right before him about now, and he‘s thinking about all the things that he should have done and could have done and would like to do. So it‘s just his mind probably is being (INAUDIBLE) with many thoughts at this particular time. I know he‘s feeling...
COSBY: What did...
FEATHERSTONE: I know he‘s feeling sad. I don‘t think—I don‘t think that he‘s really aware of exactly what‘s happening at this present moment.
COSBY: You know, we went inside the prison and got a close-up look at sort of the death chamber. Here in California, it‘s lethal injection. You know, when I went inside the prison, the inmates seemed to talk to each other, Al. Is there a buzz inside the prison, even though it‘s in lockdown?
FEATHERSTONE: Yes, because now they‘re having to (INAUDIBLE) one of their comrades is getting ready to go down. And believe it or not, you know, when executions come, all the prisoners come together because they feel that society has turned against them. And Tookie is one of them, so everybody‘s feeling sad. Everybody‘s feeling hurt. And that is just a general sadness and maybe even a state of mild depression going on right now inside of San Quentin.
It‘s all locked down. There‘s no movement. Every man is locked into his cell to kind of fall into his own thoughts and reflect upon his own life because this could be any one of the men that are there.
COSBY: Al, if you could stick with us, because I want to bring in Pastor Michael Tomlinson, who also spent some time in San Quentin, is now also counseling inmates, doing a lot of good in there. And on the other side of me is Earl Murr. Earl, you were actually a death row inmate for, what, about a year?
EARL MURR, FORMER SAN QUENTIN DEATH ROW INMATE: Yes, for a year I was up there.
COSBY: What is death row like?
MURR: Well, it‘s pretty—you‘re alone a lot (INAUDIBLE) You go to the yard probably a couple times a week. And other than that, you‘re in your cell 24/7, you know?
COSBY: How much is lockdown lockdown? I mean, is it truly, at this point, especially in preparation for an execution?
COSBY: What is the mood like in the prison?
MURR: Well, it‘s probably pretty somber, you know? And there‘s—they‘re probably, you know, talking up and down the tier, you know, trying to encourage the guy, you know what, I mean, to—hopefully, that he‘ll be able to take this, you know what, you know, in a good mood, man. If you can‘t take that in a good mood, I don‘t think...
COSBY: Is there a way to pass on messages, even though you‘re in lockdown? There is ways to sort of...
MURR: Yes, there is.
COSBY: ... communicate.
MURR: Yes, there‘s a way to communicate. They have what they call a line, where they throw it up and down the tiers. They got the tore-up sheets and stuff like that, where they pass, you know what, messages back and forth. And you know, they holler up and down the tier, too, because it‘s an open tier, you know, to where you can talk out the bars, you know?
FEATHERSTONE: Yes, Rita...
COSBY: Pastor—go ahead, Al, real quick.
FEATHERSTONE: They have a way of moving messages around. You know, they—prisoners are very ingenious in moving things around, so they can get their messages across.
COSBY: You know, Michael, there is a way, right, that can communicate, even though it‘s lockdown.
PASTOR MICHAEL TOMLINSON, FORMER SAN QUENTIN INMATE: Oh, yes.
COSBY: What do you think is going in the minds of the other inmates? And do you believe also, as Earl and Al were saying, that there is communication, they‘re passing messages on...
TOMLINSON: I do.
COSBY: ... knowing this is basically it?
TOMLINSON: I think the number one thing that‘s going on through the minds of anybody in there, they‘re glad that it‘s not their last night. They‘re at ease that they‘re not on death row. They‘re not doing that last walk, like Tookie Williams is going to do. And I think that‘s number one in all their minds.
COSBY: Michael, real quick, also, there was a concern of some violence breaking out, which is the reason some people suspect maybe that Governor Schwarzenegger delayed the announcement of this decision. Was there concern from fellow gang members that they could, you know, cause some violence?
TOMLINSON: Yes, from fellow gang members, I‘m sure that that‘s the buzz and the talk in the police community. I called the prison today at 2:00 o‘clock to talk to the chaplain there. I was going to bring a bunch of Christmas cards down for the guys. They ran out of Christmas cards. And they were going to lock all the inmates down at 2:00 o‘clock. And so once they‘re locked down, that‘s—they‘re going to stay locked down until this whole thing is over. So there‘s not going to be any violence in there.
COSBY: I‘m going to go through all three of you very quickly. Michael, let me start with you. Do you believe Tookie Williams should be executed?
TOMLINSON: I don‘t believe Tookie Williams should be executed, no.
COSBY: You don‘t?
TOMLINSON: No, I do not.
COSBY: Earl, do you believe he should be executed?
MURR: No, I don‘t.
COSBY: Al Featherstone, I don‘t believe Tookie Williams should be executed?
FEATHERSTONE: Absolutely not. I don‘t think that man should take a life. I know he did some heinous things, but I think that commuting his sentence to life without the possibility of parole would be a great thing.
I think that Tookie could really help society. He could keep contributing, give back to society more than probably many of the police departments as a whole. Because of the influence that he has and the things that he‘s been through and his lifestyle, I think he could make a great contribution to our young people and help resolve some of the violent issues that‘s going on in America today. We need more people like Tookie Williams to speak out and be able to have a voice in society.
COSBY: All right, Al, thank you very much. And of course, we want also hear from those who suffered so much from Tookie Williams. Lora Owens is the stepmother of Albert Owens. He was, of course, a convenience store clerk who was executed, shot in the back of the head twice in 1979 while he was working at a convenience store. And Lora Owens joins me now. She will be a witness to the execution tonight.
Lora, first of all, are you ready for tonight? Because it sounds like it is going to go forward in a matter of hours.
LORA OWENS, MURDER VICTIM‘S MOTHER: I think I‘m ready for it, Rita. It‘s been long coming. You know, I don‘t like hearing that it‘s a political decision. I believe that governor looked at the facts, at the evidence. You know, it‘s been presented by the DA. It‘s been presented by the attorney general. We‘re talking facts and evidence, not political decisions. That‘s what I‘m standing firm on, is that he saw it, and we‘re going to have justice.
COSBY: You know, Lora, how tough have these years been? And I know you made a vow to your husband, as well.
OWENS: It‘s been hard. It devastated the Owens family. The harder part is knowing that we could never have closure because of all the publicity that Williams gets for things that he‘s not even the one doing. You know, everything that he claims to have done can be proven false?
COSBY: Do you believe it‘s all a charade? Do you believe these—you know, the eight kids‘ books and Nobel Prize nominations- you know, a lot of people say—if you look at these guys, they say he‘s redeemed. They say he‘s not going anywhere, he may as well help kids, you know, get off gangs. What do you say?
OWENS: I think Barbara Becnel wrote some mighty good books because when those books were written, Williams was in the court of appeals claiming that he was brain damaged. Now, the two just do not go together. The Nobel Peace Prize—now, Rita, that was done by advocates against the death penalty. So anybody can nominate. If you‘re a professor in a university, you can put in anybody‘s name for a Nobel Peace Prize. But let me point out, he didn‘t win it. He was only nominated by an activist against the death penalty.
COSBY: Lora, real quick, tell us again also what happened to Albert and also the promise that you made to your husband.
OWENS: Albert was working. He needed extra money, so he got a second job and he went to work at a convenience store, a 7-Eleven. He had been trained that if there‘s a robbery, you let them take the money and nobody would get hurt. Williams and a group of his men walked in. The men took the money. Williams took him to the back room, had him lay down on his stomach, shot him with a 12-gauge gun twice in the back at close range. And then he laughed at him as he lay dying.
There‘s never, ever been any proof that he did not do that. And he never, ever claimed innocent until everything else has been done. Williams is not a changed man. He only changed tactics.
COSBY: Lora, do you think justice will be served at 12:01 tonight, just a few hours from now?
OWENS: I believe it, Rita. I believe that I can finally have Albert at rest.
COSBY: Lora, thank you very much. My prayers are with you. And I‘m also going to be a witness, so I will see you inside tonight, Lora. Thank you.
OWENS: Thank you for having me, Rita.
COSBY: Still ahead—you‘re welcome. And still ahead, everybody, two former gang members from the Crips. We‘re going to talk to them about what life is like in one of the mean streets of Los Angeles. How tough are these gangs? What do they do? And can a man be redeemed in prison? This is the gang that Tookie founded.
And is prison for punishment or rehabilitation? Should a convicted killer who says he has changed his ways remain condemned to the ultimate punishment? What is our system saying? Stay tuned.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And that was from my exclusive interview with Stanley “Tookie” Williams.
Right now, you‘re looking at a live shot. This is an aerial shot from KNTV. And you‘re looking right now at a shot of the east gate of San Quentin. I‘ll actually be walking through that gate shortly because I‘ve been selected as a witness for the execution. And right in front of it, as you saw at the beginning of the shot, is a crowd of people because as the hours draw closer to the execution date—and we‘re just a few hours away now, at this point—more crowds are coming out, more supporters and more people on both sides of the aisle in terms of how they feel about capital punishment, now that the governor has refused to grant him clemency.
Tookie Williams isn‘t the only Crips member filled with regret. Others say that they have reformed their lives, and they also now denounce gangster violence. We have with us now two former Crips members. We‘ve got Chico Brown joining us from LA, and also Zane Smith. Both of them were members of the very violent Crips gang and have both reformed their ways.
Zane, let me start with you. How did you meet Tookie Williams? I understand you got to know him pretty well.
ZANE SMITH, FORMER MEMBER OF CRIPS: Well, I met Stanley “Tookie” Williams about five months actually after the Crips organization was formed. Actually, it was Samuel Simmons (ph), myself and Raymond Washington (ph) who started it. And we met Tookie about five months afterwards. He was brought into the Crips organization.
COSBY: How violent was Stanley “Tookie” Williams at sort of the height of the Crips when he was there?
SMITH: Actually, when I met Stanley, he was—he had a little crew, and they were smacks (ph) when I met them. He had a crew of about maybe 12 guys with him. The thing is, I never remembered him being violent at all. As a matter of fact, Tookie mainly to me was a body builder back then. He started lifting weights shortly after he came to the Crips. He really wasn‘t that big when we first met. Him and Mad Dog (ph) started working out together, and he started getting—getting pretty—getting pretty big. But all he did was walked around the parks after I walked away in ‘72, flexing around the park and...
COSBY: Let me bring in—let me bring in—Zane, sorry to interrupt you. Let me bring in Chico real quick, and I‘ll get back to you in a sec.
Chico, you know, what‘d you see with Stanley “Tookie” Williams? You know, because when you hear co-founder of the Crips, that‘s pretty tough stuff.
CHICO BROWN, FORMER MEMBER OF CRIPS: Yes. During my time, I was younger though. I was—I‘m 10 years younger than Tookie. So I remember seeing Tookie in the neighborhood, but I don‘t remember all of the other stuff that goes with it.
COSBY: Tell us about the Crips. What kinds of things did they do? I mean, you hear the stories, and I remember even growing up, you know, as a young kid, hearing about the Crips and the Bloods and the—just horrible feud that was happening between the two. How violent, how rough was the gang in general?
BROWN: Well, it just started off, you know, kids in the neighborhood hanging around each other. But I mean, at 12 years old in 1976, I was shot in a drive-by. You know, I was a pallbearer over 20 times for friends. So it was a violent gang. It still is. That‘s what was going on in the inner city.
COSBY: You know, Chico, Stanley “Tookie” Williams told me in an interview that I did about a week-and-a-half ago, he said to me he never ordered anyone to be killed and he never killed anybody himself. Do you think that that‘s feasible, being the co-founder of the Crips for that long of a time?
BROWN: Yes, that‘s very believable, too, because a lot of misperception, I think a lot of people think this is a very organized group of people that Tookie could have made somebody do something. But it‘s not even like that. Crips is a different—it‘s a whole bunch of different sets. Crips, when it started, it started off to be one individual group, but it broke out to be a whole different group of people, different sets. And so, I believe that Tookie could have went through his whole life without even doing anything, I mean, as far as killing anybody. He got that name as the co-founder, so he had to take everything that goes with that.
COSBY: You know, Zane Smith, let me bring you in, because the prison is saying here in San Quentin that Tookie Williams was running gangs even as recently in the last few years. Is that possible to do from behind these walls?
SMITH: Well, actually, like Chico stated, that the Crips organization really was never organized but in the very beginning. And back then, that was the only organizational structure that we had at the very beginning. But when—after that, after I walked away, there was no more structure.
You know, Crips fought Crips.
Tookie may be in there trying to survive in prison. I don‘t know really what‘s going on in there. I haven‘t never been. And I really believe that—I really just believe that he‘s in there just doing what he has to do to survive.
COSBY: All right. Well, both of you, thank you very much. Zane Smith and Chico Brown, both former members of the Crips who are doing some good in the community. We do appreciate you being with us.
And everybody, as I mentioned, I did talk to Stanley “Tookie” Williams. I actually talked to him three times, but spoke with him just recently, about a week-and-a-half ago. And I asked him how he‘s doing, how he‘s mentally preparing for the execution, which is now slated to be in less than six hours from now. Separately, I also asked him why he has never said that committed these crimes, why he has never apologized. This is what he told me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And that was Stanley “Tookie” Williams talking to me just about a week-and-a-half ago.
Coming up, we‘re going to talk to Reverend Jesse Jackson. He just came back from visiting with Stanley Williams. And also, let‘s talk about the celebrity influence. Why have so many big names come out against Tookie Williams getting the death penalty? And what happens in Tookie‘s final moments? We‘re going to take you inside San Quentin. That‘s coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This window here, this is the window that‘s for Stanley Williams. And this is where he sits, inside of that metal enclosure with family, legal counsel, friends that are approved and have went through our screening process. This execution process of Stanley Williams will probably take about 20 to 25 minutes, from the point that we begin to the point that death has been pronounced.
After the execution has been completed, this is how his remains of Stanley Williams will be released from San Quentin, as they will roll out on a gurney out of that iron door that you see there inside of the black gate, and they will roll out to this location where we are now standing, where the mortuer‘s (ph) van will be located. His remains will be then loaded into that van, and then he‘ll be driven on down that street behind us here, as he will be the conclusion of Stanley Williams.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And we just got some breaking news coming into us in the last minute. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided not to block the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, the co-founder of the Crips gang. That word just coming down a few minutes ago, meaning that the execution will indeed go as scheduled. That was the only last-minute appeal left after Governor Schwarzenegger decided not to grant him clemency about midday today. Then Tookie Williams‘s attorneys filed an appeal with the Supreme Court. And again, the word just coming down that they will refuse to block it, in other words, allowing the execution to go forward in less than six hours from now.
I‘m standing outside the gates of San Quentin, and joining me now is someone who has spent quite a bit of time with Stanley “Tookie” Williams. In fact, you visited him, what, twice today? Reverend Jesse Jackson.
REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: Well, we had prayer earlier today. He was full of kind of boundless hope, said he‘d been through the valleys and the shadows of death before. Bullets had been whizzed by his head.
But frankly, he felt some joy in being a transformed person and the influence he now wields in the world as a kind of anti-gang, anti-violence force...
COSBY: You come at 4:00 o‘clock.
COSBY: Do you—at that point, did he sort of accept that—that, obviously, the tide was against him?
JACKSON: Well, (INAUDIBLE), the second time I saw him, I announced to him the decision had been made because he did not know it...
COSBY: Oh, he didn‘t know it until then?
JACKSON: He didn‘t know. And I went back in with Barbara and with (INAUDIBLE) at that time. And yet, he wants his legacy, for those who are hurt by this and feel despaired by this, to not act it out in self-destructive behavior. He wants his legacy to be his new hope, his new view of the world.
And I would think that is a fitting tribute to him. In some sense, how the legions of follows he has handles his death is a true grit of their newness, of their new character. And I hope that doing this (INAUDIBLE) there will be lots of pain, but lots of dignity. And his message of anti-gang, anti-drug, antiviolence, that message ought resonate.
COSBY: Who will he have—I know when I did an interview with him about a week and a half ago, he had said at that point that, “Who am I going to have see me die? I don‘t want a last meal.” Has that changed?
JACKSON: He did not Barbara Becnel and others to (INAUDIBLE) I encouraged him to do so tonight...
COSBY: This is, of course, the journalist who‘s become a good friend of his and helped him with the book.
JACKSON: I said to him today, I said, “Tookie, that I might challenge you in this situation, let your last view of the earth be someone that loves you and cares for you. Also, let someone who you know be a witness to what happened.”
And he said to Barbara, “Would you like to do it?” She said, “I wouldn‘t like to do it, but I will do it.” So Barbara will be one of the three witnesses who will watch him die tonight.
COSBY: Has he asked for a last meal? And what is he doing in his final hours?
JACKSON: He chose not to ask for a last meal. But I‘ll tell you what he did say. He said, “You know, I would rather die than get clemency based upon a lie.” He said, “I did not kill those persons.”
COSBY: He maintains that? I mean, he says...
JACKSON: He said, “I did a lot of bad stuff.” He said, but no eyewitnesses, and no fingerprints, no blood press...
COSBY: Does he understand that that‘s hurt him with the governor, because the governor‘s statement said, look, he hadn‘t repented, hasn‘t atoned...
JACKSON: Well, you know, we‘ve seen, in the last two years, 122 walked off of death row because of being wrongfully convicted. But the case for his clemency is not based upon that. It‘s based upon: Is he a redeemed social force, as Malcolm X was? So is Tookie.
And for Christians who become so hard-hearted about the situation, who cannot see life without parole—I mean, don‘t forget, Moses murdered, and yet he was a redeemed man, became a great leader.
David got Uriah killed, and yet, from that, he bounced back from disgrace and became a great king. (INAUDIBLE) killed and bounced back to become (INAUDIBLE) and so we‘ve seen people in our faith tradition bounce back from the depths to become great leaders.
COSBY: Real quick, how do you think history‘s going to view Tookie Williams? Real quick, Reverend.
JACKSON: I think Tookie Williams part two, like Malcolm part two, became a positive, social-redeeming force. And let me tell you: I was with Mr. Mandela about a month ago. There‘s a picture on his wall with him shaking Mr. Schwarzenegger‘s hand (INAUDIBLE) Schwarzenegger congratulating Mandela because Mandela, after 27 years in jail, chose redemption over revenge.
And somehow that lesson should not be lost. Mandela could have come out revengeful and angry. Somehow, if Mandela could chose redemption over revenge, would couldn‘t Mr. Schwarzenegger and the rest of us choose redemption over revenge? (INAUDIBLE) just give life without parole a chance.
COSBY: Reverend Jesse Jackson, thank you very much for being with us.
JACKSON: Thank you.
COSBY: We appreciate it. I know it‘s a busy day.
JACKSON: It is.
COSBY: And I know that you‘ve been fighting hard for him. So thank you very much.
And on the phone right now tonight is attorney Nina Salarno Ashford. She‘s consulted with a lot of victims‘ families, knows a lot of the victims in this case very well.
Nina, first of all, your reaction, because here‘s a man who has written a lot of children‘s books, who by all accounts has convinced a lot of kids off gangs. As Reverend Jackson is saying, should he have been kept behind bars?
NINA SALARNO ASHFORD, ATTORNEY: Well, my reaction is I‘m very pleased that the governor did not turn a blind eye to what was most important, was the fact that he was convicted for four brutal murders. Regardless if he redeemed himself in prison or did write these children‘s books, he hasn‘t even started to redeem himself for those murders. He can‘t even admit to what he did.
And, despite what Reverend Jackson says, there was compelling evidence. There was eyewitnesses. There were three confessions that Williams himself made to people, when he laughed about murdering those people.
So there is compelling evidence. And for him to maintain that he didn‘t do it shows that he has no thread of morality, no idea what even redemption is. So I‘m very pleased that the governor did not turn a blind eye, as this...
COSBY: Nina, if you can hear me—Nina, let me interrupt you, if I could. How are the victims doing tonight? We just talked to Laura Owens. How are the other victims doing tonight? What‘s going on through their minds, as they prepare now?
ASHFORD: I have not spoken with them personally, but I have been witnesses to four executions with victims...
COSBY: Yes, I hear you.
ASHFORD: ... and so I can speak from personal experience in dealing with victims. I know what‘s going through their mind, is they‘re going to feel a sense of relief. They will no longer be tormented by Tookie Williams.
COSBY: Do you believe, Nina, that justice is going to be served at 12:01 local time? And what message do you think that sends to anybody who decides to join a gang or commit a murder, even if it was back in 1979?
ASHFORD: I think the message it‘s going to send is much more compelling than his children‘s books would ever be, because it‘s going to send a message of accountability, that California is going to hold you accountable when you take the life of another human being, regardless of what do you in the aftermath. And I think it sends a tremendous message, not only to them, but a message to these victims that we respect you, that we‘ve heard your voice, and we will uphold justice.
COSBY: All right, Nina Salarno Ashford, thank you very much.
And joining me now—as I mentioned when we were talking to the Reverend Jesse Jackson, there are a lot of protesters outside here, folks on both sides of the aisle.
Tell us your name, sir?
FRED DAVIS JACKSON, PROTESTOR: My name is Fred Davis Jackson, another Jackson.
COSBY: Another Jackson. I‘m surrounded by Jacksons here tonight.
You know, you seem to be in a good spirit, but I‘m surprised. You were sitting with me just when we got the word that the Supreme Court has decided not to stop the execution. In other words, it‘s going forward. Your reaction, sir?
F. JACKSON: My reaction is, I‘m still—you know, I‘m still feeling fine, because I left Tookie about an hour ago.
COSBY: You did?
F. JACKSON: Yes. I‘ve been working with him since 1997. And that was not the first time that I‘ve met him. So I got a chance to know him, his works.
COSBY: Do you believe he‘s redeemed, reformed?
F. JACKSON: I believe he‘s reformed. I‘ll tell you, when I heard his voice in 1998 on his recording, and when he apologized for the terrible legacy that he co-created, then, as I watched these school kids listen, still to listen to his voice, that‘s when I know he was really redeemed, that he has something to say to our youth.
COSBY: Right now, we‘re seeing a number of people coming out here. Do you think we will see more as the time draws near? It‘s only a few hours to go.
F. JACKSON: It probably will. We‘ll probably see more as the hour gets closer because, after all, Tookie‘s work and the great things that he‘s done, the fact that he pulled himself up by his bootstraps on death row, it‘s kind of the American paradigm, if you will, the American hallmark of the American soul.
COSBY: Does he understand, though, what he did was so horrible, too, though?
F. JACKSON: Yes, right.
COSBY: Does he understand that side of it, because...
F. JACKSON: That‘s OK, but, as Mr. Jackson pointed out, I‘m a Christian. I‘m saved. And Apostle Paul was of great—he was a mass murderer on his way to slaughter more Christians. But he was converted and turned out to be my favorite apostle, Apostle Paul.
COSBY: Where are you going to be at 12:01? Where will you be at 12:01?
F. JACKSON: I will be right here at 12:01. So redemption is the bedrock of our faith. And when you look back, you can look back to the history of this country. Without redemption, there would be no United States of America.
COSBY: Mr. Jackson, thank you very much. We appreciate you being here.
F. JACKSON: Thank you. Right on.
COSBY: Thank you very much.
F. JACKSON: Thank you.
COSBY: And a lot of protesters outside, and they‘re continuing to build. You can see we‘ve got a bit of a crowd coming behind us. We‘re right in front of the east gate.
And coming up, we‘re going to have a lot more. We‘re going to talk to some other people who have talked to Tookie Williams. Also, we‘ll give you a perspective and give you a sense of what happens on death row. Will he have some last words? What are the steps just ahead? We‘re going to talk to the person in charge of all the things here at San Quentin. That is coming up.
COSBY: Well, of course, the debate continues tonight, especially now that we have just gotten word the breaking news that the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to block the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, meaning that, at 12:01 local time, he will be executed.
We‘re here in San Quentin in front of the gates. And, of course, that was the last hope for Stanley “Tookie” Williams, after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger decided not to grant him clemency midday today.
Well, of course, hundreds of protesters are, of course, very upset at that decision. They‘ve been relentlessly pushing and hoping that Tookie Williams would receive clemency, saying that this is a guy who has written eight children‘s books. He‘s been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, also for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
This is a man who they say has redeemed himself. Others, however, say that his crimes are so atrocious that he deserves the death penalty.
Joining me now with legal perspective is death penalty prosecutor Robert McCulloch. He is in St. Louis. And in Los Angeles is defense attorney Arthur Barens.
Let me start with you, Mr. McCulloch. Your reaction, first of all, that the Supreme Court has shot it down, this execution is going forward?
ROBERT MCCULLOCH, PROSECUTOR: Well, that‘s correct. And that‘s the way that it should be. I don‘t think that came as a surprise to anybody after the governor—that‘s always the last step, and then there‘s a last shot at the Supreme Court. But, no, he‘ll be executed tonight and will be punished the way he so richly deserves.
COSBY: Arthur Barens, is this what he deserves?
ARTHUR BARENS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I don‘t think it‘s really a question as much about Tookie Williams and what he deserves as whether or not we have a flawed system that he‘s simply a pawn in a system that forever is going to be flawed and forever imperfect, until have it more evenly...
COSBY: How is the system flawed?
BARENS: ... balanced and better—I beg your pardon?
COSBY: How is it flawed, in your opinion?
BARENS: Well, look at who‘s on death row. Look who really gets the death penalty in our society.
MCCULLOCH: A guy that‘s murdered four people. He lined them up and shot him with a shot gun, a 76-year-old man. That‘s who‘s on death row. There‘s a problem with that?
BARENS: When you look at historically in the United States who gets the death penalty...
MCCULLOCH: We‘re looking at Tookie Williams, are we not?
BARENS: ... and who‘s on death row. Again, the statement is—it isn‘t about Tookie Williams. It‘s a bigger statement than that.
Listen, I can‘t but agree, nor could anyone, that it‘s a heinous crime that took place. The question is: Do we impose the death penalty in a system where mistakes are proven to be made, where time and again we open the newspaper and see that the wrong guy has spent 18 years in prison, 24 years in prison? What do we do when they‘re dead and we were wrong?
MCCULLOCH: You‘re shifting the topic here. The question is...
COSBY: Robert McCulloch, Robert McCulloch, is there a chance? Because in Tookie Williams‘ case, he says it was a stilted jury, virtually all white jury. They wanted this sort of black boogeyman. He was the guy who was the co-founder of the Crips. He said the deck was stacked against him. How was a black man in 1979-1981, when he was actually convicted, going to get a good shake?
MCCULLOCH: Well, first of all, it was not an all-white jury. There were Hispanics and blacks on the jury. There was plenty of physical evidence tying him to the crime. The statements that he made—he had no difficulty.
He has great difficulty acknowledging what he did now, but he no trouble yukking is up with his brother after he executed these people. So everything that occurred that night was corroborated by those who were with him. Unbeknownst to Williams, they were corroborated by independent lay witnesses, prior to even knowing what the co-defendants in the case had to say.
There isn‘t any question in this particular case that Williams is guilty of these four murders and should be executed.
COSBY: You know, Arthur Barens, you know, and on the flip side, if you look at it, if you say, “OK, Tookie Williams, you walk free,” doesn‘t that inspire every guy on death row to pull sort of ruse. Let‘s write some books. Let‘s get nominated. Let‘s try to act like I‘ve been redeemed.
Doesn‘t that open the floodgates and say it‘s OK to be the co-founder of a notorious gang?
BARENS: I don‘t think anybody in their right mind would say that‘s OK, nor am I saying that‘s OK. Clearly, there is a debate about...
COSBY: But isn‘t that the message? But, sir, isn‘t that the message?
BARENS: No, I don‘t believe that‘s the message at all. I believe—
I hear you saying that message. I think the message is: You shouldn‘t be doing these wrong acts to begin with. But the issue is: If you do, and we have a system in the United States, what is the proper way to address crime? What is the way to reduce crime? And does it inspire people to be peaceful citizens when we, ourselves, gather as a society to execute people? What does that say about us?
COSBY: Robert McCulloch, don‘t you need to say, “Look, I need to give somebody a chance,” otherwise you know, what is the reason for clemency?
MCCULLOCH: Well, the people that you need to give a chance with are four people that he executed. You know, I heard Reverend Jackson‘s words earlier. And it is truly a tragedy that he wasn‘t standing next to Tookie able to say that to him then.
Let these people die with somebody that loves them. Instead, no, he executed them. And he ought to be executed for it.
One of the real tragedies in this case—and you just mentioned it—
1979, when the murders occurred, ‘81 when he‘s convicted, and this is 2005.
That is a disgrace.
COSBY: All right, both of you, that‘s going to have to be the last word. Thank you both very much. Spirited conversation.
And, of course, there‘s a lot more coming up on MSNBC tonight, as we‘re going to be watching everything taking place inside and outside of San Quentin. But we also have my two pals, Joe Scarborough and Tucker Carlson.
Joe, let me start with you. What‘s coming up tonight?
JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST: Well, I‘ll tell you what. At the top of the hour, we want to talk to you, Rita, and get the very latest from that amazing scene outside the prison.
Also, we‘re going to be talking about a hearing that‘s going to be going on tomorrow, a hearing we‘ve been pushing for sometime, about oversight in the cruise industry. Many believe that the cruise industry may be covering up crimes to increase their profits. We‘ll be talking about that, the hearing tomorrow, plus our exclusive interview with Jen Hagel Smith tomorrow night, talking about what really happened the night that George Smith IV disappeared—Rita?
COSBY: Well, thank you, Joe. We‘ll be watching for that.
And, Tucker, what‘s coming up on THE SITUATION at 11:00?
TUCKER CARLSON, MSNBC HOST: Well, Rita, like Joe, we‘ll be talking to one of the only 17 members of the press who will actually sit in the room as the execution takes place. Actually, that‘s you. We‘ll talk to you.
And we‘re going to talk to the Reverend Al Sharpton, one of the many fashionable celebrity types clustered around this case defending Tookie Williams. And we‘re going to ask, do they have any idea why he‘s in prison in the first place? Do they know the names of the victims? Do they even care? I suspect not, but we‘ll ask any way. It‘s going to be interesting.
COSBY: All right, Tucker. Thank you very much. And I‘ll be talking to you on THE SITUATION. Thank you guys very much.
And coming up, everybody, as we continue here live from outside the gates of San Quentin, of course, there were a lot of folks who were very upset with the new news that the U.S. Supreme Court has said it will not block the execution. We‘ll talk about celebrity support. And also the ACLU has gotten involved. What role are they playing?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SNOOP DOGG, RAP ARTIST: You should be given forgiveness for redeeming yourself. You know, we‘re not asking to let him out. We‘re not asking anything that‘s out of the relevant. We‘re just asking to let him stay alive, because his voice means so much and it matters so much, not just to my community, but your community, as well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COSBY: And that was Snoop Dogg, who is a current rapper but former member of the Crips, which Tookie Williams is a co-founder of. You‘re looking now live of a shot outside of San Quentin. This is the east gate. This is the main gate leading into San Quentin.
As you can see, the crowd is building, which is what was expected, as now we‘re just a few hours away from the execution of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, 51-years-old, founder of the Crips, and responsible for murdering four people back in 1979.
Of course, a lot of people are not happy about the execution going forward. This is such a polarizing issue. And one of them is the policy director with the ACLU, Natasha Minsky—Minsker, right?
NATASHA MINSKER, DIRECTOR, ACLU DEATH PENALTY POLICY: Minsker.
COSBY: Minsker, forgive me. Natasha, why are you against this?
MINSKER: We are very upset that the state of California is about to carry out three executions in three months, right when we have a Senate-established bipartisan commission investigating the problems of wrongful convictions and wrongful executions here in California.
COSBY: Why do you think the numbers? Is it just timing, or is there politics, do you believe, behind it?
MINSKER: I think it‘s really the timing that the cases have finally exhausted their appeals. But it‘s coming at a time when we in California know that there are problems with the death penalty, and we have just established this commission. This commission has just begun meeting looking at problems with the death penalty.
And so the timing of the cases, their appeals are exhausted, right when we are learning for the first time that we are putting innocent people on death row. And so now is the time to put executions on hold, rather than to carry out one right after the other for the next three months.
COSBY: Do you believe you can make a difference? As we‘re looking at a live shot here of quite the crowd building here outside of San Quentin, as they have been for the last few months since the date was set for December 13th for the execution. Do you believe you can have an impact standing out here in the wee hours of the night?
MINSKER: Absolutely. We are out here to witness the state putting a man to death, and we feel that every person who comes out here will leave here and go back and talk to their legislator and tell them how important it is to pass the moratorium bill, A.B. 1121, which would put all executions on hold in California.
And we believe this moment is a moment of wake-up for the state of California, that we cannot pretend that we have a death penalty and don‘t use it. And if we are worried about executing innocent people, now is the time to put the death penalty on hold.
COSBY: Do you believe there is ever a case, though, for the death penalty? I mean, especially when you look at atrocious crimes, and to look at someone who may have committed some very heinous crimes here, do you believe that this needs to be carried out in certain cases?
MINSKER: There‘s a wide range of views on the death penalty. The one thing we all have consensus on is that we should not execute innocent people. Seventy-three percent of Californians are in support of putting all executions on hold.
COSBY: But are you anti-death penalty, period?
MINSKER: I believe that the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment...
COSBY: Even in the most severe cases?
MINSKER: Even in the most severe cases. But I have this common ground with people who are pro-death penalty, which is that we can‘t risk executing an innocent person. And that common ground is where we need to be having our conversation.
COSBY: All right, Natasha, thank you very much. And we appreciate you being here tonight.
MINSKER: Thank you.
COSBY: A busy night here. And coming up, we‘re going to talk to actor Mike Farrell from “MASH.” He is on our show about a week and a half ago. He is out here, said he would be out here tonight. He‘s coming up, right after the break.
COSBY: And as we continue here, live outside the gates of San Quentin state prison, the new word, of course, coming down from the Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, the last option for Stanley “Tookie” Williams that they will not block his execution. In other words, it will go forward in a matter of hours, 12:01 local time here on the Pacific Coast.
I‘ve also been chosen as one of the witnesses. There will be 17 media witnesses. My name was pulled in a lottery, so I will be one of the witnesses actually watching one of his final moments. Be sure to, of course, stay tuned here to MSNBC because we will be covering the events outside and inside very closely.
Someone who also has been watching the case from the very beginning and a big supporter of Stanley “Tookie” Williams is Mike Farrell, of course, the actor with “MASH.”
Mike, you know, I had you on my show a week ago, a week and a half ago. At that point, you were optimistic, hoping when you heard word that the governor—that there was a chance with this clemency hearing. Are you disappointed?
MIKE FARRELL, ACTOR, OPPOSES DEATH POLICY: Of course I‘m disappointed. And I wouldn‘t say I was optimistic. I was hopeful that the governor would do the right thing and not just be another cowardly politician. But unfortunately, he‘s chosen the latter pattern.
COSBY: You wrote a letter to Governor Schwarzenegger?
FARRELL: I did.
COSBY: What did you say to him?
FARRELL: I wrote a letter that was signed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a number of Nobel laureates, some members of Congress, a number of people from the religious community, and it said the governor, that we would lose a peacemaker if we execute Tookie and that, in fact, his commutation to life in prison without possibility of parole would be the appropriate thing so that he could continue to reach out to young people in our community and communities around the world, to stop them from doing what he has done and stop them from being involved in gang violence.
COSBY: We just have a few seconds left, unfortunately. How do you believe, now that the execution is set, who is history going to remember Tookie Williams?
FARRELL: It will be, obviously, a controversy, as everything is. But the young people to whom he spoke will remember him. And I hope that their hopes aren‘t dashed by what Governor Schwarzenegger has done.
COSBY: Mike Farrell, thank you very much for being with us at the last minute.
FARRELL: Thank you.
COSBY: Mike Farrell, among a number of celebrities and a lot of other people, as you can see, gathering here outside of San Quentin, the east gate. The execution, again, scheduled for 12:01 Pacific time. We will be covering events outside here.
Also, as I mentioned, I‘ve been chosen as one of the witnesses to the execution, and we will be reporting afterwards exactly what happened inside.
And that is the latest here live from San Quentin. Let‘s go to my pal, Joe Scarborough, in Washington—Joe?
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