SAN QUENTIN, CALIF. — SAN QUENTIN, CALIF. -- Stanley "Tookie" Williams, whose self-described evolution from gang thug to anti-violence crusader won him an international following and nominations for a Nobel Peace Prize, was set to die by lethal injection early today, hours after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to spare his life.
Later in the day, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case.
Despite persistent pleas for mercy from around the globe, the governor said Williams was unworthy of clemency because he had not admitted shooting to death four people during two robberies 26 years ago.
Barring a last-minute court stay, the co-founder of the infamous Crips street gang - who insisted he was innocent - was expected to become the 12th man executed by the state of California since voters reinstated capital punishment in 1978.
As evening descended yesterday, hundreds of demonstrators protested the execution - and prayed for a reprieve - outside the gates of San Quentin State Prison. Led by the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, several dozen had marched 16 miles to the prison from San Francisco in the morning.
Security was tight, and surrounding roads were closed.
Inside the prison's thick walls, Williams passed the day's dwindling hours quietly in a holding cell just steps from the death chamber, visiting with friends and talking on the telephone while under constant watch by guards.
A prison spokesman said Williams was "calm and upbeat." Jackson said he met twice with Williams and, with Barbara Becnel, a friend of Williams', delivered the news that the governor had denied clemency. Williams smiled "as if he expected it," Jackson said, adding that he thought "his baggage as a Crip was on trial more than for the four murders."
In recent public statements, Williams has expressed a philosophical attitude toward his own death. Fred Jackson, 67, who works with Internet Project for Street Peace, Williams' gang intervention project, said Williams reiterated these feelings while talking to an Oakland support group Sunday.
"He said he doesn't fear death - he doesn't fear what he does not know," Fred Jackson said.