Snoop rallies for condemned gang founder

ImageSAN QUENTIN: Rapper Snoop Dogg has called for authorities to spare Stanley "Tookie" Williams, the co-founder of the Crips gang, as hundreds gathered outside the prison to protest against his planned execution next month.

"Stanley "Tookie" Williams is not a regular guy, he's an inspiration," he said. "All I want to say to the governor is it's about keeping this man alive because his voice needs to be heard."

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger will decide on Williams' petition for clemency in the coming weeks.

The rapper was the final speaker of about a dozen at a large protest outside the main gates of San Quentin state prison, where speakers included former gang members, religious leaders and representatives from the Nation of Islam.

The Williams case is shaping up as the fiercest battle over capital punishment in California for years. State officials believe Williams is a brutal and unrepentant murderer who deserves death by lethal injection as scheduled for December 13 for killing four people in 1979 during petty robberies.

Yet Williams, who has written a series of books warning youth about the dangers of gangs, has won over high-profile supporters, including actor Jamie Foxx, who portrayed him in a sympathetic film version of his life.

In an interview in prison on Wednesday, Williams said he was innocent.

Former gang member Diego Garcia says Williams' writings helped him leave the gang life after more than 10 years. "I was completely lost, but after reading his books, it inspired me," he said. "I related to him. He was also a gang member who changed his life around."

But California authorities say Williams is not a role model. "Stanley Williams does not deserve this mercy," the Los Angeles district attorney wrote in a response to the Williams' clemency petition.

"Despite the overwhelming nature of the evidence against him and despite the non-existence of any credible defence, Stanley Williams has steadfastly refused to take any responsibility for the brutal, destructive and murderous acts he committed," he added.

Snoop Dogg, who grew up as Calvin Broadus in Southern California where the Crips have their origins, became one of rap's biggest stars after his debut album, Doggystyle topped the charts in the early 1990s.

On Saturday, Snoop Dogg said the execution of Williams would destroy the hope of those trying to extricate themselves from gang life.

"On the street we don't have no role models, we don't have no leaders," he said.

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