Parole board member steps down just days before release of man convicted of killing two people

Published: May. 15, 2023 at 6:53 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - In less than 24 hours, a man convicted for the murder of two people in 2003 will be released from prison.

The Parole Board’s decision to release James Williams III hasn’t been without backlash and now one of the Parole Board members is stepping down.

Parole board member Tony Smith announced he would no longer be in that position last Friday, and while it hasn’t been officially stated that the controversy over Williams’ parole was the reason for his resignation, some are drawing the connection.

Weeks of controversy and pushback regarding the parole of James Williams III, the man convicted of killing his stepmother and father nearly 20 years ago, has put the spotlight on the parole board.

Now, the board will be one member short.

“From what I’m hearing, Mr. Smith has resigned from the Parole Board. It just seems odd that what has transpired with everything that’s happened with this case, that he would resign,” District 77 Representative Price Wallace said.

Tony Smith, who was appointed by Governor Reeves in 2020 and has been part of the board that’s been criticized for denying parole too often, announced that Friday was his last day serving on the board.

And that’s something Zeno Mangum, son of one of the victims, didn’t see coming.

“The main pressure we were putting on was the board member Jeffrey Belk, and he has not responded yet,” Mangum explained.

Wallace was one of the 27 House members who signed a letter requesting the board change the decision. He says he believes Smith was one of the votes against Williams’ release. But he can’t be sure that’s the reason for his resignation.

“There could be any number of reasons. And it just, you know, it does seem strange. I’ll stick with that,” Wallace said.

“Maybe this is his way of apologizing, saying that, ‘Hey, we made a mistake. I can’t do anything about it other than step down,’” Mangum explained.

With less than 24 hours before Williams could be released from prison, Wallace and the victims’ family are still pleading and hoping the board makes a last-minute decision to keep Williams behind bars.

“People that can be let out of prison on parole let them out. But I’m sure there are several nonviolent offenders that would be better outside than this gentleman,” Wallace said.

“I’m just prayerful that if he is released, that he has, in fact, been rehabilitated and don’t cause anybody else as much heartache as he has my family and his own, really,” Mangum said.

3 on Your Side reached out to Smith for a comment as to why he resigned. However, he didn’t respond to messages.

The parole board has been in this situation before, in the case involving Frederick Bell last year. In that case, the board ended up rescinding its decision the day of his release. So, there could still be a decision change over the next 24 hours.

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