Is Tookie Williams Worth Saving?

CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone writes on how Stanley "Tookie" Williams went from brutal murderer to cause celebre.

When Stanley "Tookie" Williams was sent to San Quentin in 1981 for four brutal murders, he was a powerful and angry gang leader.

His years on death row, however, have transformed him into a gray haired man many see as a valuable influence on troubled young people.

During his first years inside San Quentin he was such a difficult prisoner he was confined to solitary for six years. There he says he turned his life around. He began writing a series of children's books urging young people to stay away from a life of gangs and crime, warning them not to end up the way he has.

His case has been propelled to prominence in recent years as he attracted a growing list of high profile supporters. Actor Jamie Foxx portrayed Williams in a sympathetic movie. Rapper Snoop Dogg has just dedicated a new album to Williams.

Some of Williams supporters have gone so far as to put his name forward as a nominee for both the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize in Literature.

But throughout, prosecutors and prison officials have said they doubt his sincerity. They say he has refused to tell them all he knows about the street gang he co-founded, the notorious Crips.

He was convicted of four brutal killings during robberies of just a few dollars at a convenience store and a motel. He has always claimed he is innocent.

His supporters call Williams a powerful example of redemption — a man transformed from evil to good. They say clemency is meant precisely for someone like Williams who can continue to do good if he is allowed to live.
By John Blackstone