More than two dozen state representatives urging the Mississippi Parole Board to reverse decision for James Williams, III

Published: May. 9, 2023 at 7:51 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - It’s been less than 20 years since James Williams, III was convicted of two murders. But he’s currently set to walk out of prison a week from today.

He was first given life without parole, but a 2021 U.S. Supreme Court allows for parole eligibility if you were a minor at the time of the crime. Williams was 17 at the time.

Now, a total of 27 House members are asking the Parole Board to reverse their decision to grant James Williams, III parole on May 16.

“So within a week, this person who did all of these things now will be out amongst us,” said Rep. Becky Currie. “And I think the public needs to know how did they come to that decision? We all want to know that. And they’ve been very tight-lipped about it.”

Williams was convicted in 2005 of killing his father and stepmother.

“This is a public safety issue,” explained Rep. Dana McLean. “This kind of violent crime, you know, we do not need to let an inmate who has been convicted of this type of crime to be released on such a short term, basically, for two lives.”

“He would only serve nine years for each murder if he’s paroled,” noted Rep. Stacey Wilkes. “So, not really understanding where the parole board is coming from, we definitely need some more transparency with the parole board, some more oversight.”

In the letter, members ask the board how to explain to constituents that two life sentences “actually means only 20 years”. There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about rehabilitation and criminal justice reform. But the members who signed this letter say this doesn’t fit into that category.

“Usually, it’s only surrounding nonviolent offenses, drug charges, stuff like that,” said Rep. Dan Eubanks. “It was never supposed to be sexual crimes or murder. And so it just seems kind of odd.”

“The fact remains committed a crime, you made a mistake,” noted Rep. Donnie Scoggin. “And now you’ve got to suffer the consequences. You know, he may come out and could be a pastor or a chaplain at one of the prisons as I understand it, he wants to do, but again, the mistake has already been made.”

Lawmakers also petitioned the board to change their decision in Frederick Bell’s case last year. They ultimately reversed their decision.

Lawmakers say the other reason they’re stepping in is because they want to know how the decision was made and whether legislative action should be made to provide more oversight to the parole board in the future.

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