02/03/12 — Now he faces life in prison

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Now he faces life in prison

By Gary Popp and Steve Herring
Published in News on February 3, 2012 1:46 PM

Marvin Williams, who was convicted of murdering security guard Theron Price during a robbery in 1989, has been removed from death row.

Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones II announced his decision Thursday in Wayne Superior Court just two days after the 10th anniversary of Williams' filing of the appeal to have the death sentence converted to life in prison.

Williams, 50, was removed from possible execution because he was deemed mentally unfit. A U.S. Supreme Court ruling prohibits the execution of the mentally retarded. Williams filed his appeal under a state law that does the same and also sets forth the procedure for the appeal.

During a Monday morning hearing, defense attorneys Shelby Benton and Glenn Barfield presented the results of IQ and other tests dating back to Williams' childhood that they argued proved Williams of being incapable of being responsible for his actions. Affidavit from psychiatrists, family, friends and former teachers were used to bolster the defense.

District Attorney Branny Vickory argued that Williams was capable of having the intelligence to plan the robbery and commit the murder, noting that he used a welding torch, gloves and helmet to attempt to open a safe and wipe his fingerprints from the area before leaving the scene.

Williams was originally sentenced to death for the 1989 murder of a co-worker at Dewey Brothers and 30 years for the attempted burglary at the business.

Vickory said the state Department of Correction had released data that shows Williams has already served what would amount to a life sentence for the murder charge had that been the original sentence. The life sentence would have meant Williams was eligible for parole in 2010.

Until Thursday morning, however, when Jones removed Williams from death row, he was not eligible for parole.

Williams is currently serving his sentence for burglary, but that sentence could be cut short if the state Parole Commission decides to parole him.

"He will be eligible for parole on Feb. 9, 2016, then it is up to the parole commission," Vickory said.

Vickory said that the idea that Williams could be released leaves a bad taste in his mouth.

"I don't like it," the district attorney said. "I understand that he has been confirmed to be factually mentally retarded, but I think he needs to be kept from society."

Mrs. Benton said the law has been upheld and that Williams appears to be happy with the situation, but he may not fully understand how he will be affected by the decision.

"Justice has been done," she said. "Judge Jones has followed the law of our state and the law of the U.S. Constitution and, in our opinion, it was the only ruling that could have been had today on the mental retardation issue."