Calif. Gov. Denies Williams' Clemency Bid

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger denied a clemency appeal to convicted murderer and Crips co-founder Stanley “Tookie” Williams, who is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Tuesday morning at 12:01 A.M.

"Clemency cases are always difficult and this one is no exception,” said Gov. Schwarzenegger in a released statement. “After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find no justification for granting clemency. The facts do not justify overturning the jury's verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case."

The announcement came following several intensive weeks of activism by supporters, including celebrities and civil rights organizations. Leaders of several mainline Christian denominations, traditionally African American denominations and clergy within the Roman Catholic Church had also either issued appeals on behalf of Williams or asserted opposition to capital punishment.

Williams has claimed innocence regarding the four shotgun murders he was convicted of in 1981. He also said he had reformed his life, repudiating his ties to gangs and urging the youth to do likewise. That was one of the keys in evaluating his clemency bid, according to the governor, who could have commuted Williams’ sentence to life in prison without the possibility for parole.

“It is impossible to separate Williams’ claim of innocence from his claims of redemption,” the statement read, but Schwarzenegger said that the evidence against Williams through eight judicial opinions was “strong and compelling” without a need to “second guess” the decision by the jury in his trial.

“Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings there can be no redemption,” stated the governor. “In this case, the one thing that would be the clearest indication of complete remorse and full redemption is the one thing Williams will not do.”

Williams was convicted for the murders of Yen-I Yang, 76, Tsai-Shai Chen Yang, 63, and Yu-Chin Yang Lin, 43, at a Los Angeles motel the family owned. He was also convicted of killing Albert Owens 26, a convenience store clerk in nearby Whittier 12 days later.

Opposition to Death Penalty among Largest Denominations

In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s scheduled midnight execution, various leaders from some of the largest Christian denominations have been vocal in their opposition to the death penalty and some, have called on the governor to have mercy on Williams.

Among the denominations opposing Tuesday’s execution or those who generally oppose the death penalty are the Roman Catholic Church, the United Methodist Church, the Church of God in Christ, the National Baptist Convention USA, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the National Baptist Convention in America, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).

The Southern Baptist Convention, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, resolved in 2000 to support capital punishment. Among the situations in applying the death penalty it says are situations where the evidence is overwhelmingly against the accused, and a view to have the death penalty applied “as justly and as fairly as possible without undue delay, without reference to the race, class or status of the guilty.”

The Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination, has not stated a view either way.

Many death penalty abolitionists express a desire to see that mercy be granted even in the face of the most heinous crimes. One of the Roman Catholic Church’s arguments against capital punishment is that in contemporary society, incarcerated criminals no longer pose a threat to society and therefore should not be executed. The church says the act is not evil in itself and would allow for capital punishment in cases where society could not protect itself.

The SBC on the other hand argues from the Bible that the civil government has been given authority to carry out punishment, and also that God has allowed the killing of those that kill.