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The last governor to commute a death sentence in California was Republican Ronald Reagan in 1967. Now, 38 years later, it appears that another Republican, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, could repeat that rare reprieve in the case of Stanley “Tookie” Williams, in one of the most intensely watched clemency battles in decades. Williams, who was convicted of four murders in 1981, was co-founder of the “Crips,” a violent Los Angeles street gang, but he has renounced gang life and campaigned for 10 years to dissuade youngsters from joining gangs. The story of his redemption and anti-gang crusading has focused much attention on Williams’ fate. Several hundred people joined rap star Snoop Dogg in a pro-Williams demonstration outside the gates of San Quentin on Nov. 19, and other rallies have shown the movie Redemption, which is based on Williams’ life. Although California has 647 inmates condemned to death, only 12 have been put to death since executions resumed in 1992. California reinstated capital punishment in 1978. A death row life Williams, 51, has spent nearly half his life on death row, and in recent years has written children’s books opposing gangs, and has given interviews from prison opposing gangs. In 1993, while a tenuous truce among gangs held, Williams gave a videotaped speech renouncing gang violence to the first town hall peace summit among gang members. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office filed a formal opposition to Williams’ clemency request pointing out that in 1971 he helped found “one of the most violent and predatory street gangs ever known,” and highlighting his role in four “horrific” murders. He was convicted of the shotgun murders of a convenience store clerk and, two weeks later, the shooting of three family members at their family-run motel. The gang Williams co-founded “has been responsible for literally thousands of murders in Los Angeles County alone,” wrote Steven Cooley, Los Angeles district attorney. He was joined in opposing clemency by several law enforcement groups, including heads of the state district attorneys associations, the president of Los Angeles County police chiefs association and the state’s gang investigator’s association, which argued that Williams has refused to name names of other gang members-casting doubt on his alleged redemption. But one of Williams’ lawyers, Peter Fleming Jr. of Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle in New York, included in the clemency petition excerpts from e-mails and letters to Williams from teachers, children, police officers and others who praised Williams for the inspirational message. Fleming said that Williams’ personal redemption and repudiation of his prior life makes him a candidate for clemency. “Well beyond that he has made it his passion to send his message of redemption and the waste of his prior life-a message that has struck a chord worldwide,” he said. “He is doing something I find personally of singular importance in this country and in California . . . .What is the benefit of killing him and silencing the source of that message?” Williams is scheduled for execution on Dec. 13 at San Quentin. The governor is not the only legal avenue still pending. Williams’ lawyers have petitioned the California Supreme Court to reopen discovery in his original murder case based on allegations that the firearms evidence was “junk science,” according to one expert, and that police withheld information from Williams’ original lawyers. Williams has denied his guilt since the outset of the case. The defense also seeks medical records that would show his involuntary drugging with tranquilizers at the time of his trial, a practice done in Los Angeles County jail between 1979 and 1981, according to defense papers. Schwarzenegger has previously denied a clemency request in a capital case, but when asked about the Williams case last week while he toured China, the governor said it was a decision he is “dreading.”

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