Telling his story to save his life

Front page, LA Times

Writer Barbara Becnel has made clemency for Stanley Williams a global cause celebre.

During a jailhouse visit in 1993 to research a book on gangs, writer Barbara Becnel discovered that Williams, who is scheduled to be executed Dec. 13, had renounced his gang past. Over the next two years, Becnel shed her doubts about the co-founder of the Crips and helped him work to persuade youths to avoid gangs.

She arranged for Williams to speak by telephone to youth and criminal justice groups, and edited his series of children’s books. Death penalty opponents also took up his cause, pushing him into the limelight by nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize for literature, prestigious nominations that are surprisingly easy to make.

Eventually Becnel negotiated a deal for the movie "Redemption," which starred Jamie Foxx as Williams.

Now Becnel is spearheading a campaign to persuade Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to commute Williams’ death sentence to life in prison without parole. Schwarzenegger has scheduled a closed clemency hearing for Williams for Dec. 8.