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Excerpts From an Interview With Stanley Tookie Williams
Published: December 12, 2005

Two weeks to the day before his scheduled execution, which is set for 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, Stanley Tookie Williams sat in a cramped visiting cell at San Quentin State Prison and talked for 90 minutes with Adam Liptak of The New York Times.

In careful, deliberate language that alternated between the pithy and the flowery, Mr. Williams, 51, spoke about helping to found the Crips street gang, about how his years in prison had changed him and about his writing and work with children.

Though he conceded his criminal background, he maintained that he is innocent of the four 1979 murders that sent him to death row in 1981.

Following are excerpts from that interview, parts of which were published in The Times on Dec. 2, 2005.

On His Years as a Crip:
"I have a despicable background. I was a criminal. I was a co-founder of the Crips. I was a nihilist."

"I functioned primarily on street wit. I managed to make it to the 12th grade. The teachers were insipid in their methodology." "Cripping was all I knew. I lived it. I breathed it. I walked it and I talked it."

"My courage was predicated on violence, on a negative reputation, on drugs, on ignorance. The courage I have now, or fortitude, is based on faith."

On His Transformation:
"People forget that redemption is tailor-made for the wretched."

On the Case Against Him:
"I always ask the question: Can a black man in America receive justice? I can say to you or anybody else that the answer is absolutely no. Thereís a myriad of things that bring me to this conclusion ó prosecutorial misconduct, the biased selection of juries, the issues of informants, the exclusion of exculpatory evidence, illegal interrogation of witnesses. Itís commonplace. Itís deeply ingrained in the California criminal justice system."

On the Man the Jury Saw:
"I was darned near twice this size. I had an indelibly entrenched grimace on my face. I had total disdain for the law enforcement system and it showed. And I was shackled."

On the Families of the Victims:
"To threaten me with death does not accomplish the means of the criminal justice system or satiate those who think my death or my demise will be a closure for them. Their loved ones will not rise up from the grave and love them. I wish they could. I sympathize or empathize with everyone who has lost a loved one. But I didnít do it. My death would not mollify them."

On His Work With Children:
"They can empathize with me. I pretty much experienced all the madness theyíre going through."

"I feel a sense of bliss within. I like to see the viability of youth."

"I donít take myself seriously. I do take my helping children and writing books exceedingly seriously."

On Taking Responsibility for the Murders:
"How can a person express contrition if heís not guilty?"

"If I were culpable of these crimes, Iíd be on my knees, begging everybody."

On What He Would Have Said to Mr. Schwarzenegger:
"First and foremost, I would say that Iím innocent. Second, I believe that if Iím allowed to get a clemency or an indefinite stay, it would allow me to continue to proliferate my positive message, including a collaboration with the N.A.A.C.P., to create a violence-prevention message for at-risk youth."

On Death Row:
"Iíve never seen a millionaire here."

"Youíre surrounded by a motley of different characters. Within the madness, there are those other than myself who have opted to redeem themselves.

"The longer I sit in this animalistic cage, the more human I become. Iíve learned not to allow the negative ambience to control me. Iíve risen above all of that, like a phoenix, a black phoenix."

"Had I still been in society I never would have been able to make the kind of impact I can now."

On the Death Penalty:
"We know that itís not a deterrent. Itís wasted a lot of the taxpayersí money. The death penalty in a sense is a disguise for vengeance."

"Itís a barbaric system that propagates, Ďto resolve murder is to murder someone,í another oxymoron. It doesnít work."

"Itís a more sophisticated type of killing than a mob lynching. Itís pathetic."

"In reality, thereís no disparity between this place and Texas."

On What He Misses:
"My freedom. Being able to hold my grandchild. Being able to go to the beach. Women. Food. My mother."

On the Prospect of Execution:
"They have the audacity to ask, 'Do I want a last meal?' Absolutely not. 'Do I want anyone present?' Absolutely not. 'Do I want a preacher?' Absolutely not. I want nothing from this institution."

"I feel good. I really do. I feel good physically and mentally and spiritually. Had I not undergone this redemptive transformation, I guarantee Iíd really be a mess."

"I have that joie de vivre. I love life."

"My faith sustains me. I donít crack under pressure."

"The least I can do is maintain my dignity. I confront madness with integrity. I donít walk around like some shuffling black man."

"Iíll go through it with dignity, with integrity, with love and bliss in my heart. I smile at everything, and Iím quite sure Iíll smile then, too. I smile to myself, and I donít worry about it."

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