15 December 2005 :at 12:01 a.m., having exhausted all appeals, Stanley Tookie Williams shuffled into San Quentin's death chamber, shackled at the wrists and waist and escorted by four guards.
After he climbed onto a padded gurney, officers buckled Williams down with wide black straps across his shins, thighs, belly and chest. His arms, stretched out to the side, were secured with leather restraints.
At 12:03 a.m., two guards pulled on surgical gloves as another entered the mint-green chamber with a plastic tub of supplies. Three minutes later, a needle was thrust into Williams' right arm and connected to an intravenous tube.
The rules, however, require a backup in case one tube is jostled loose or fails. It was here that the carefully choreographed execution turned messy.
For 12 minutes, a prison nurse poked the convict's muscular left arm repeatedly, searching for a vein that would deliver a dose of poison. As his loved ones watched in distress, the inmate visibly winced. As he waited for the lethal injection, the convicted killer kept raising and shaking his head, as if irritated. At one point, he snapped, "You guys doing that right?"
Ultimately, the needle found its mark, a stream of lethal chemicals flowed, and Williams, convicted of murdering four with a shotgun in 1979, drew his final breath.
Surprising many, he did not leave a statement for the warden to read. But his closest supporters made sure his departure was not quiet. Filing out after witnessing the execution, they yelled in unison:
"The state of California just killed an innocent man!"
Relatives of Williams' victims appeared shaken. Lora Owens, whose stepson, Albert, was gunned down at an L.A.-area convenience store, hunched forward and wept.
Williams, 51, became the 12th man executed by California since voters reinstated the death penalty more than a quarter-century ago. Although capital punishment inevitably stirs a debate, this case prompted an extraordinary outpouring from celebrities, clergy and others who urged that Williams' life be spared.