Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

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April 26, 2013

Branstad approves commutation request

Des Moines —

Gov. Terry E. Branstad today granted Rasberry Williams’ commutation request. Williams, age 67, committed first-degree murder on July 20, 1974, in Black Hawk County. A jury convicted Williams of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to life without possibility of parole.  Today Governor Branstad commuted his sentence to life with possibility of parole. 

“Mr. Williams’ record while incarcerated has been extraordinary,” the letter states. “He has made the most of his life and has had a positive impact on the lives of both inmates and Department of Corrections’ staff.”

This commutation allows the Board of Parole to consider Mr. Williams for work-release or parole.  It will take time for Mr. Williams to work through the re-entry process. 

Text of the letter is as follows:

April 26, 2013

Jason Carlstrom, Chair

Iowa Board of Parole

510 East 12th Street, Suite 3

Des Moines, Iowa 50319

Dear Chair Carlstrom:

The Board of Parole made its unanimous favorable recommendation for the commutation of the sentence for Rasberry Williams #0103782 on February 1, 2013.  I received the Parole Board’s recommendation on February 4, 2013.  Mr. Williams is currently serving a life sentence for Murder – 1st Degree.  After I received the Parole Board’s recommendation, members of my staff interviewed Mr. Williams.  On February 28, 2013, I wrote and requested the Board of Parole conduct a public hearing in the county of conviction, Black Hawk County, to obtain additional information.

The Iowa Constitution assigns the commutation power to the Governor of Iowa.  This is a responsibility I take very seriously.  I consider many elements when considering a commutation request, including: the impact on the victims, the safety of Iowans, the inmate’s rehabilitation and behavior while incarcerated, among other factors.  I do not consider a commutation to be a retrial of guilt or innocence because I respect the verdict of a jury and the judicial process.

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