Monday, October 03, 2005

National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Execution Alert: Take action against this execution

OHIO
William James Williams Jr.
Oct. 25, 2005

William James Williams Jr., a black man, faces execution on Oct. 25, 2005 for the deaths of Alfonda Madison Sr., Eric Howard, Theodore Wynn Jr., and William Dent in the home of Madison and Howard on the morning of Sept. 2, 1991. Williams’s girlfriend, Jessica Cherry, her brother, Dominic Cherry, and his friend, Broderick Boone, all testified to their involvement in the deaths. The three were tried as juveniles in exchange for their testimony against Williams.

Williams raised a number of issues during his appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio that he believed should lead to a new trial. Although the majority disagreed with Williams’ contentions, Justice Moyer wrote a compelling dissent that was joined by Justice Pfeifer. According to Moyer “the trial court failed to adequately protect appellant Williams’s constitutional right to be tried before an impartial jury.” Moyer states that “Vigilance is required to protect the integrity of the jury from infirmities that may sap and undermine it. Such infirmity is present in the composition of the jury that sentenced Williams to death. I would therefore vacate the conviction and sentence and grant Williams a new trial.”

The transcript of the prospective-juror-questioning clearly shows evidence that the seated jurors may not have been impartial. John Gombaski, later excused as a prospective juror, raised concerns that other prospective jurors were concealing possible prejudice. Gombaski explained that he was prejudiced by what he heard and believes that others also heard what he did. Additionally, Gombaski admitted to telling two other jurors what he heard. The trial judge erred by not further investigating Gombaski’s statement.

Furthermore, the questioning of the prospective jurors plainly confirms Williams’s contention that he was not protected from juror bias in favor of the death penalty. Juror Eddleman was seated on the jury regardless of her repeated statements that if parole was a possibility she would automatically “go with the death sentence.” In Williams’s case the choices of sentences were in fact various lengths of life sentences, all including the possibility of parole, or death. Undoubtedly Eddleman was biased in favor of the death penalty in this case.

Because William James Williams Jr. was not tried by an impartial jury capable of sentencing him according to the law he certainly should not be executed. As Moyer points out in his dissent “This case represents a test for the criminal justice system.” If Williams is executed, considering the problems with his trial, the criminal justice system will have failed the test.

Please contact Gov. Bob Taft to request that William James Williams Jr.’s execution be stopped.

Take action here.

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