Just before 9:30 p.m., Williams lawyers filed another petition, citing a fourth purported witness who claimed other inmates tried to recruit him into a scheme to frame Williams. The governor denied that, too.
Born in New Orleans, Stanley Tookie Williams III was named for his father but raised by his mother. Hoping to escape poverty and crime in Louisiana, the family moved to South Los Angeles in 1959.
He spent his youth as a delinquent, rebounding in and out of Central Juvenile Hall. In his writings, he admitted that he was a megalomaniac who beat, robbed and shot at the innocent.
By the 1970s, Williams was viewed as one of the more menacing toughs in South Los Angeles, weighing 300 pounds with biceps measuring 22 inches.
In a move he said he regretted more than any other, he helped launch the Crips — originally called the Cribs — and began terrorizing the streets.
On Feb. 27, 1979, he and three cohorts smoked cigarettes laced with PCP and, armed with a 12-gauge shotgun and a .22-caliber handgun, set out on a late-night search for a place to rob, according to court documents.
They wound up at the 7-Eleven where Owens, a father of two and Army veteran, was working the overnight shift. Owens was shot twice in the back.
Less than two weeks later, Williams broke down the door at the Brookhaven Motel and killed the motels owners, Taiwanese immigrants Yen-I Yang, his wife, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, and their daughter, Yu Chin Yang Lin, who was visiting.
The two robberies netted $220.
In 1981, a jury in Torrance convicted Williams, landing him on death row. Initially his conduct was disruptive: "I gave this place hell," he acknowledged in an interview.
While in solitary confinement, however, he began a transformation, Williams said. At first he read voraciously — the Bible, the dictionary, philosophy, black history — and struggled to understand his past.
By 1992, Williams was a changed man, he said, deeply remorseful for the bloody rampage the Crips had perpetrated across America — and for the gang life that lured in one of his two sons.
In 1994, Williams left solitary confinement and declared himself a champion of peace.
With the help of Becnel, he wrote a series of books warning youths away from violence and brokered gang truces in Los Angeles and New Jersey. Last year, his life became the subject of a TV movie, "Redemption," starring Jamie Foxx, and his imposing appearance gradually gave way to a graying beard and spectacles.
Reached by phone at her Los Angeles home as the execution was underway, Williams ex-wife, Bonnie Williams Taylor, said, "This is an awful time. I want to be with my family."
Earlier in the evening, dozens of people had gathered in Leimert Park in Los Angeles to oppose the execution. But the speakers who addressed them focused more on healing crime in black communities than on Williams plight.
"We have to understand," said African American activist Eric Wattree, 53, speaking to a mostly black crowd early in the evening, "this is our failure taking place here."
Times staff writers Dan Morain and Steve Chawkins in San Quentin and Jill Leovy, Lisa Richardson, Greg Krikorian, Louis Sahagun and Carla Hall in Los Angeles contributed to this report.