Journal Express, Knoxville, IA


April 26, 2013

Branstad approves commutation request


Des Moines —

At the March 27, 2013 public hearing, multiple former inmates testified regarding the positive impact Williams had on their lives.  The witnesses stated Mr. Williams mentored them, encouraged them to complete their education, and always urged them to obey the law so they would never return to prison and could live meaningful and fulfilling lives.  Also at the hearing were two relatives of Mr. Givhan, the victim.  The victims testified that they missed their relative dearly and this tragedy has been difficult for them and their families.  The victims stated they forgave Mr. Williams and requested that my decision be based on Mr. Williams’ behavior and improvement while incarcerated and not on the heinous actions of his crime.  Victims’ voices must always be heard and they must never be re-victimized.  Based on the information provided by current and past inmates and the Department of Corrections’ staff, Mr. Williams’ behavior and improvement have been extraordinary.

After carefully reviewing the parole board’s February 1, 2013 unanimous favorable recommendation, the parole board’s August 29, 2005 unanimous favorable recommendation, Warden John Ault’s April 2, 2009 favorable recommendation, Warden Fayram’s October 19, 2012 letter, Larry Moline - Iowa State Penitentiary’s Correctional Security Manager’s favorable recommendation,  trial judge Roger Peterson’s October 7, 2000 favorable recommendation, Warden Ken Burger’s May 11, 2005 favorable recommendation, prosecuting attorney David J. Dutton’s favorable recommendation, interview my staff conducted with Mr. Williams, the public hearing conducted by the Parole Board on March 27, 2013 in Waterloo, letters of support by the community, letters of support and testimony from former inmates, and testimony from the victims, I granted Mr. Williams’ commutation request and commuted his sentence from life without possibility of parole to life with possibility of parole in the attached commutation certificate.

This case presents a set of facts and circumstances that set Mr. Williams apart from others convicted of first-degree murder.  First, I, along with the jury, the Iowa Supreme Court, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, and the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals reject Mr. Williams’ claim of self-defense.  However, I do recognize Mr. Williams drastically changed his life while incarcerated and even contributed to saving the lives of Correctional Officers.  Additionally, Mr. Williams has served thirty-eight years in prison starting on April 26, 1975.  He possesses an exemplary disciplinary record and has taken significant steps to improve his condition and address the mistakes he made in his life.  Further, he has benefited the lives of other inmates and Department of Corrections’ staff. 

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