Skip to comments.[Tookie Williams] Clemency bid to include claims of errors in trial
Posted on 12/04/2005 8:37:33 AM PST by SmithL
What the jury saw was a musclebound hulk in a 4X jacket. What they heard about was barbaric: two cold-blooded robbery murders within 12 days, four dead and a suspect who was said to laugh hysterically as he mimicked the gurgling last breaths of one victim.
Who they heard it from: an alleged accomplice granted immunity, a jailhouse informant, an acquaintance with a checkered criminal past, a friend who later claimed police beat him into testifying.
A police expert tied a shell casing from one crime scene to a slide-action 12-gauge shotgun owned by Stanley "Tookie" Williams, but there were no fingerprints, no pictures, no bystanders to finger him. And no DNA that could bolster or silence his claim of innocence.
A quarter-century later, the trial that landed the Crips gang co-founder on death row draws renewed focus as his Dec. 13 execution date nears. While his backers highlight his tale of atonement and anti-gang outreach from prison, debate over his 1981 prosecution is bound to play out in the Capitol on Thursday as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger entertains his case for clemency.
The state's lawyers will underscore the savagery of the crimes, his refusal to admit to them and the repeated rejections of his state and federal appeals. In response, lawyers for Williams likely will argue that the kind of "snitch" testimony relied upon in his trial has led to numerous exonerations, that the evidence was weak and appeals courts never really considered his innocence claim.
"What the federal courts have done is looked at a host of legal questions, such as whether Stanley Williams had inadequate representation, and questions about the jury," said Jonathan Harris, one of the lawyers who will speak for Williams.
"The question of Stanley Williams' guilt or innocence is not properly before them."
The state Supreme Court last week rejected Williams' bid for new ballistics tests and police records that they hoped would reignite his legal case.
The decision, on a 4-2 vote, leaves Williams hanging his hopes on clemency, which would commute his sentence to life without parole.
Unlike the clamor of celebrity and media attention over his plea for life, there was scant public interest in Williams' criminal trial, which started Jan. 21, 1981, and ended in a death sentence two months later.
At the time, a different Los Angeles capital case dominated the news: the trial of Lawrence Bittaker, a machinist who would join Williams on death row for kidnapping and slaying five teenage girls.
The Crips had yet to stamp their violent imprint on the national consciousness. If jurors knew about the street gang, they were never told Williams stood among its leaders. Nor did they hear from Williams, who remained silent during the trial, occasionally jotting on a yellow notepad.
The state's case went like this:
On Feb. 27, 1979, Williams smoked a cigarette laced with PCP and set out with three others, in two cars, to rob. After failed attempts on a restaurant and a liquor store, they drove to a Whittier 7-Eleven store, where Army veteran Albert Owens, 26, was sweeping the parking lot about 4 a.m.
An alleged accomplice, Alfred Coward, testified that Williams ordered Owens to walk to the back of the store, then lie down. He told the jury that Williams shot out the store's security monitor, then killed Owens with his shotgun, sawed off at the handle. The four men divided $120 among them.
The jury also heard testimony that Williams bragged of the March 11 early morning murders of three family members at the motel they ran on South Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles. The state said Williams broke the locks and smashed the molding on the door of the Brookhaven Motel, then shot Yen-I Yang, 76, his wife, Tsai-Shai Yang, 63, and their daughter, Ye-Chen Lin, 43.
There were no witnesses to the motel murders. A fourth family member, Robert Yang, awoke to gunshots but did not see Williams.
Coward was the state's lone eyewitness, testifying under immunity in the 7-Eleven murder. Another alleged accomplice, Tony Sims, never testified at Williams' trial. He received a life prison term for his role in the robbery-murder, in a separate trial during which he named Williams as the shooter. The third alleged accomplice, known only as "Darryl," also did not testify.
Robert Martin, the prosecutor, said he granted immunity to Coward because he was the least culpable and unarmed -- a claim scoffed at by Williams' lawyers, who cite a host of gun crimes on Coward's criminal record.
The jury knew of the immunity deal, but only portions of Coward's rap sheet, which included armed robbery and carrying a loaded firearm.
Williams' lawyers argue that prosecutors also failed to reveal that Coward was a Canadian citizen who may have given false testimony to avoid deportation. Coward is now serving time in a Canadian prison for robbery and manslaughter.
Police recovered Williams' shotgun two days after the motel murders. They said James Garrett, a con man, pulled it from under his bed. Williams often stayed at Garrett's house, and Garrett named Williams for the murders while police questioned Garrett about the killing of a crime partner.
Garrett testified that Williams bragged about the motel murders and also admitted to the 7-Eleven murder. Garrett's wife, Ester, also testified that she heard Williams confess to the murders.
The jury knew some of Garrett's questionable past, but were not told of any deals with him for leniency. Garrett, a career criminal credited with masterminding several armed robberies, would later receive probation for a variety of crimes, including extortion, over recommendations of jail time by his probation officer. He is now dead.
Robert Martin, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted Williams, insists he never struck a deal with Garrett.
"The only thing I told Garrett's attorney -- this is quite usual -- is that if his judge called me and asked if he gave honest, truthful testimony, I'd say yes," said Martin, now retired. "If ... the judge learns that he testified truthfully in a murder case, he's probably going to get some consideration."
Prosecutors are required to tell the defense about deals with witnesses. This one was unspoken, said Williams' attorney, Verna Wefald.
"It's important to understand how this winking and nodding goes on with informants and prosecutors," she said. "Nobody does this for nothing, and everybody knows how the game is played except the jury."
Wefald said police never investigated Garrett for the murders, despite his possession of the shotgun and his knowledge of what happened.
Samuel Colemen, a friend of Williams who was arrested with him, also testified under immunity that Williams admitted the crimes to him. Later, in 1994, Coleman signed a sworn affidavit saying police beat and intimidated him into his testimony. His current whereabouts are unclear.
George Oglesby, a jailhouse informant with a grimy, violent criminal record, told the jury that Williams bragged about the killings and plotted an escape, planning to explode a jail bus with Coward aboard.
Jurors saw notes and a sketch that Williams purportedly wrote in jail, plotting the escape. A handwriting expert testified that the writing matched Williams' penmanship.
A police firearms expert also testified that he positively matched a shell from the motel crime scene to Williams' shotgun -- testing that his attorneys call flimsy. Two shells recovered from the 7-Eleven were "consistent" with the shotgun, the expert said, but he could not make a positive match.
The defense attorney never had the weapon tested.
"It's all informants, and that shotgun," said Wefald. "The shotgun clearly looks like it was planted under Garrett's bed."
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected all of Williams' arguments about the witnesses who testified.
It found that Williams' trial attorney "effectively called into question the truthfulness of Oglesby's testimony through cross-examination." The panel found that Williams could not prove that Garrett secured anything more than a hope of leniency when he testified. And it held that, even if Coleman was beaten and coerced, the time between the beating in 1979 and the trial two years later was enough to make his testimony "sufficiently voluntary."
After his conviction, Williams' attorney chose not to present mitigating evidence, or any mental state defense, to avoid a death sentence. His appeals lawyers claimed Williams received unconstitutionally weak defense. The defense lawyer, Joe Ingber, says he made a calculated call.
"I had a dilemma. The prosecution chose not to include ... anything to do with gangs," said Ingber. Any mitigating evidence "might open the door to a lot of gang activity that hadn't been brought up in the guilt trial."
Asked what most swayed the jury, Ingber pointed to the figure he had fitted in a 4X jacket to keep his muscles from stretching the seams.
"His physical presence would have been ominous enough for me. You're sitting there, listening to four murders, a shotgun used to kill three people in a family, and you're looking at a person who looks very ominous. It's hard to be a little compassionate, except to the family."
Martin, the prosecutor, said the best evidence in the case "really came from Tookie himself. The fact he told Sam Coleman, the fact he told the Garretts and also his documents of the escape attempt."
The appeals court rejected Williams' claim that he was incompetent to stand trial. Recently, he said he was involuntarily drugged in jail while awaiting trial -- a claim that the state Supreme Court declined to entertain.
The trial record shows that Williams was barely responsive to questions from the judge.
In his memoir, "Blue Rage, Black Redemption," Williams devotes only a few sentences to his trial, writing that he "sleepwalked numbly through the majority of the ordeal." He describes that period as "an amnesiac episode that flew by with the speed of light."
Now, 24 years later, Williams can only hope that Schwarzenegger rewrites the ending.
Why not just let him go in Contra Costa?
Yeah, right..."errors" that didn't come up during the assloads of appeals that this jagov blew thousands upon thousands of tax dollars on.
For once, just once, I'd really like to see Schwarzenegger actually live up to his Hollywood "Terminator" image.
The author throws up scores of speculations why the testimony of criminals is probably manufactured lies. Most likely, the witnesses believed Williams stories that he is the killer, and they also feared he would just as soon kill them if they crossed him. I believe these criminals.
I dare anyone to put a few of these bumper stickers on their car and drive through South Central.
I think the punishment should fit the crime. I say Tookie should die the same way he killed his victims.
First, tell Tookie he's going to be spared. Then tell him to lie on the cold concrete floor. Then shoot him in the back with a shotgun. Twice. Then stand around and laugh as the bleeds to death.
That is what Tookie did to his victims. That is what he deserves.
I'd do it for a million dollars plus a car full of U.S. Marines.
(Denny Crane: "I Don't Want To Socialize With A Pinko Liberal Democrat Commie.Say What You Like About Republicans. We Stick To Our Convictions. Even When We Know We're Dead Wrong.")
Vengeful S.O.B., ain't I?
If even the 9th Circuit can see through this, it's time to kill him.
(Denny Crane: "I Don't Want To Socialize With A Pinko Liberal Democrat Commie.Say What You Like About Republicans. We Stick To Our Convictions. Even When We Know We're Dead Wrong.")
Not even close. May God forgive me for this, but I could easily stretch that animal's execution over such a protracted period that the only clemency he would seek would be the mercy of the grave.
Williams has had 24 years to loft any evidence that his case was screwed up or that he was innocent. He has made appeal after appeal only to be shot down.
Nine days until justice flows through the veins of the co-founder of the Cipts.
I would that his victims and the victims of his organization had recieved 24 more years of appeals.
Pull the trigger, trip the trap door, flip the switch, start the injection, just terminate this brutal racist butcher.
Not really knowing anything about this case, I don't have any opinion on the clemency petition, but that so many FReepers anxiously anticipate dancing on a grave sickens me. The execution of a criminal is not a cause for celebration; it is an occasion for sadness that it ever had to come to that.
After learning of Williams calloused inhumane murderous brutality and racism, I share your views to the letter.
There was an editor of a Compton paper on the John & Ken show Friday. He said the majority there does not support clemency.
How many people are now dead because of the evil street gang this thug started? I've rarely seen a case where someone deserves the death penalty as much as this horrid individual.
"He's changed, he's done so much good since then." - That's what the libs are saying. The cry of a repentant man is never "It was somebody else's fault."
I heard the guy. How insulting to decent black citizens from South Central to think they would support someone who helped destroy their community.
Williams should get down on his knees and give thanks that the State has given him a life span much longer than the average for his followers. 24 years of being granted almost every legal desire except freedom. Shouldn't have been over 5.
Wish I could give credit where credit is due.
I don't think he deserves clemency now... oh and these great Children's books they want to give him a Nobel Peace Prize for writing (I think they were ghost-written myself) sold less than 400 copies..... so how many kids can 400 books save?
Most damning part of the whole article.
So you wrote a childrens' book, Tookie? Very nice.
You're entitled to one -- no, two -- gold star stickers on your forehead before they administer the needle.
What is it about Hollywood these days? and their desire to bed down with the worst of the worst in our society.
Arnold will woos out and commute the killer's sentence, especially now that he has a left-wing commie faggot on his staff. Oh well, don't blame me, I voted for McC.
"it is an occasion for sadness that it ever had to come to that"
I agree dancing on his grave may be a tad morbid. OTOH, in some ways I can legitibately see the cause for celebration in the sense that at long last we may witness justice being done.
I'm not sad when our system works (albeit belatedly).
Those "errors" have been appealled over and over again. The most recent one was just last week.
All have appeals been denied.
Tookie is a thug and a criminal.
Mike Farrell can stand up there and tell the world how great Tookie is, but you can bet your last dollar that Farrell won't take Tookie into his home and be totally responsible for his behavior, with penalties for both Tookie and Farrell when the inevitable happens.
The lies from Snoop Dog - a former CRIPS GANG member- and all the others crying about poor Tookie makes me puke.
They all need to spend some personal time with the VICTIMS of Tookie's life style.
String the animal up in the town square, and be done with it. ""
Tookie is a pit bull in a human skin, IMO. Cannot change his behavior-EVER.
We're dealing with a RINO governor who's beholden to his Leftist advisors. All bets are off.
Agreed. A feeling of satisfaction that justice has finally been done is wholly appropriate (assuming he is guilty, and again I have no opinion on this). My problem is with the people who are giddy with thoughts of torturing the man to death.
Execute him and let his soul be on its way. But in demanding justice for "this monster" some people are becoming monsters themselves.
They are just clueless without their scripts.
I would never dance on Tookies grave. I might urinate on it.
No cure for Rabid dogs except euthanisation.
Well this is where Schwarzenegger must earn his keep. He can look at every single piece of possible evidence that the courts technicalitied out against the defense (or against the prosecution for that matter). He's the judge of last resort.
I voted for McC, too. Smart man, with actual answers. I was okay with Arnie's election, on the "Anyone but Bustamente" theory.
Arnie should consider during this clemency petition that we kicked one jackass out of office, and we'll have no probelm doing it again.
Here read this.
It is time to recall exactly what Tookie did to get sentenced to death.
In 1979 "Tookie" murdered four innocent, defenseless people with a sawed-off shotgun at point blank range. During his first murder he ordered a 7-eleven store clerk into the back room and told him to "lie face down on the floor you mother----er." He then walked over to this young man and shot him in the back at contact range with the shotgun. The rush of blood into the victims lungs and throat made a horrible gurgling sound and the man struggled to breathe. "Tookie" then fired another killing round into the man's back -- again at contact range. Later that evening he bragged about the murder and laughed while recalling the agony, gurgling sounds and the desperate gasping of the victim.
Eleven days later "Tookie" broke into a small motel at 5:30 in the morning. When confronted by the owner he shot the man point blank in the face with the same shotgun. He broke into the owners' bedroom and shot and murdered his wife at point blank range with the shotgun. When their daughter came running to their rescue he shot and brutally killed their only daughter with the same powerful shotgun. Then he calmly raided the cash register and drove away with a hundred dollars -- the only receipts for the evening.
"Tookie" was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for these wanton, brutal acts of murder. During the sentencing phase of his trial he looked over to the jury and mouthed "I will get everyone of you mother----ers."
This heroic jury did not flinch. They at great personal risk to themselves and their families meted out a "guilty" verdict even though the leader of the most notorious gang in America with thousands of gang members to do his bidding threatened to ..."get everyone of you mother----ers."
Tookie Williams has never been remorseful, he has never apologized to the families of his victims, he refuses to accept responsibility for his actions. He still claims to be an innocent man, framed and convicted by an all white jury. This is a blatant lie that Tookie Williams repeated last week on the MSNBC Rita Crosby interview. (There was a black and a latino on the jury.) The jury members still live in fear of this wanton, unrepentant monster. It is time for this man to quit threatening society.
Tookie is not a victim. The real victims are like that freckled-face young man, with a ready smile for everyone, working at that 7-eleven store when Tookie Williams walked in 26 years ago. Tookie Williams smote the life out of that young man and his mother has been gasping for closure ever since. She has been horribly injured, her pain is too great to bear, the cuts to her heart are too deep, and her wounds will never heal.
Excellent summary. In addition I would point out that all of the accomplice testimony was completely consistent despite being taken at different times and places. Pretty much every detail the same. There were also independent third party "civilian" eye - witnesses who were able to corroborate details of the the accomplice's story. (number of people, make of vehicles, method of entry - they just weren't close enough to identify faces). The shotgun shell is the most damning piece of evidence. Is was connected to a gun which picture id shows was purchased by Tookie. No question it was Tookie's gun. For you Firearms experts out there - how easy is it to connect a shell to a specific shotgun, assuming the gun didn't have a rifled barrel (which I don't believe this one did.)
Thanks for the kind words. Yes, the record does show corraborating evidence and testimony from third parties (non convicts). Not surprising that the media, Hollywood celebrities and political activists ignore these incriminating details.
The more I look into this case the more unbelievable it gets. Three days ago the western regional director of the NAACP, Jamal Watkins, compared Tookie Williams to the biblical Moses.
I wonder how Rebecca Owens, Lora Owens and all the Yangs feel about that!
It seems to me that "tough guy Tookie" is really a pansy after all.
Hey! Tookie, take your medicine like a man. All this Hollywood touchie-feelie stuff makes you look like a girlie-man.
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