A Nobel Nominee Faces Execution

Times Staff Writer

A federal appeals court said Wednesday that Stanley “Tookie” Williams, a founder of the Crips street gang who has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, can be executed for killing four people in 1981.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to grant Williams another hearing based on his claim that he was a victim of racially biased jury selection in his 1981 trial. The prosecutor in that case struck all three blacks who might have served on the jury.

Unless the U.S. Supreme Court reverses the decision, Williams, 50, could be executed, perhaps later this year.


Judge Johnnie Rawlinson, writing for nine dissenting justices of the 24-member court, said: “I dissent from the denial of rehearing

“In this case,” Rawlinson wrote, “a prosecutor publicly castigated by the Supreme Court of California for his pattern of racially motivated peremptory jury challenges, removed all blacks from Williams’ jury. In declining to [rehear] this case, our court bestows an implicit imprimatur upon the trial court’s denial of a constitutionally mandated jury selection process.”

Williams was convicted in the 1979 shotgun murder of a 7-Eleven employee during a robbery in which he and three others split $120. He was also convicted of killing two Los Angeles motel owners and their daughter two days later.

Prior appeals by Williams have been rejected by the California Supreme Court, a federal district judge in Los Angeles and a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit.

However, the latter suggested that Williams might be a good candidate for clemency from the governor because of his “laudable efforts opposing gang violence from his prison cell.”

While in San Quentin State Prison, Williams has been nominated five times for a Nobel Peace Prize and four times for the Nobel Prize for literature for his three children’s books.

Williams’ appellate attorney, Andrea Asaro of San Francisco, said she was hopeful that the Supreme Court would review his case because it issued a ruling in 2003 that set a very liberal standard for defendants to obtain reviews on claims of racial bias in jury selection.

Nathan Barankin, a spokesman for California Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, said the trial prosecutor had “good reasons not related to race” for dismissing the three black jurors. He said one was excused because of a work hardship, another because she said she would require prosecutors to meet a higher standard of proof than normal and the third out of concern that he would be guided by his background as a psychologist rather than the evidence.