Larry Elder

Stanley "Tookie" Williams, convicted multiple murderer and co-founder of the notorious street gang the "Crips," died via lethal injection at 12:35 a.m. on Dec. 13, 2005, in San Quentin State Prison. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, only hours before Williams' scheduled execution, refused to grant clemency.
 
Who was Stanley "Tookie" Williams, and why did so many people want his life spared?

 The Crips, co-founded by Williams in 1971, became a national -- indeed, international -- gang responsible for thousands of deaths. In 1981, a jury convicted Williams of murdering four people, and he was sentenced to death. Williams claimed he was innocent, a victim of a racist criminal justice system. He partnered with a writer and co-authored several anti-gang children's books. Williams apologized for founding the Crips, renounced his membership and urged others to do the same.

 The usual suspects came out in support of Williams' clemency -- Hollywood stars and anti-death-penalty advocates. But so did the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

 The NAACP took out an ad in the Los Angeles Times and began a four-city tour urging the governor to grant Williams clemency. Bruce S. Gordon, the new president and CEO of the NAACP, called Williams the organization's "secret weapon" in combating gang violence. Gordon also suggested that race played a part in Williams' conviction and noted that the criminal justice system "makes mistakes."

 About the death penalty, according to the NAACP's website, the organization opposes it: "The NAACP has long opposed the death penalty because in many states there has been a disproportionate number of African-Americans sentenced to death, particularly when the crime involves a white victim."

 But where was the NAACP's opposition to the death penalty back in 2000? The organization ran an ad during the 2000 presidential campaign of then-Gov. George W. Bush. The ad -- with a voiceover by the daughter of James Byrd, the man dragged to death by three men in Jasper, Texas -- attacked Bush for not passing enhanced hate-crime legislation. Bird's daughter, in a dramatic voice, said, "(I)t was like my father was killed all over again." But two of the three men convicted of killing Byrd had already received death sentences, with the third, who testified that he attempted to stop the other two from committing the murder, getting life without possibility of parole.


Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit www.LarryElder.com.