Richard Head Williams, 33, was executed by lethal injection on 25 February 2003 in Huntsville, Texas for the contract killing of a 44-year-old woman.
In March 1997, Bruce and Michelle Gilmore approached a friend, Jerrol Blueford, about killing Jeanette Williams, 44. Williams was an acquaintance of the Gilmores and had lived with them at various times. She was paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair after being shot by her husband 21 years earlier. She was also addicted to crack cocaine. Bruce Gilmore owned a $25,000 life insurance policy on Williams. Blueford declined the Gilmore's request, but he introduced them to Richard Williams, then 27, a friend who had just been released from prison and was living with him. Richard Williams agreed to murder Jeanette Williams (no relation) for $12,000.
On 24 March 1997, the Gilmores, Richard, and Jeanette drove to an area near downtown Houston, ostensibly to buy cocaine. While Bruce Gilmore stayed in the car, Michelle and Richard pushed Jeanette in her wheelchair toward the corner of the sidewalk. Richard then grabbed Jeanette's forehead from behind and slit her throat with a nine-inch steak knife. After she fell from her wheelchair, Richard repeatedly stabbed her in the chest. Michelle joined her husband in the car and they drove away, leaving Richard at the crime scene. They drove to Blueford's house and told him that Richard Williams had murdered Jeanette. They gave Blueford $400 to give to Williams and told him not to tell Williams where they were going.
When Williams returned to Blueford's house, his hand was wrapped in a blood-soaked towel. He asked Blueford if the Gilmores had left anything for him. When Blueford gave Williams the $400, Williams became upset and said that he was going to find and murder the Gilmores.
Williams had prior convictions for burglary, arson, and aggravated sexual assault. He was sentenced to four concurrent 10-year sentences in 1987 at age 17. He never received parole, due to over 100 disciplinary violations. He was discharged in February 1997 after completing his term.
A jury convicted Williams in October 1997 of capital murder and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in May 1999. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
Bruce and Michelle Gilmore were convicted of capital murder and are serving life prison terms.
"I ain't did nothing to nobody," Williams said in a death-row interview in the weeks before his execution. Williams said that he was in Louisiana at the time of the murder, he never knew or saw the victim, he didn't receive any money, and he "didn't know no Gilmores." Williams said that he was convicted solely on the basis of his criminal record. "The way I look at it, the whole trial was rehearsed," he said. "They used everything I did in my life against me. ... I'm just a dumb black man with no money, caught in the system."
In a message posted on an anti-death-penalty web site, Williams reflected on his lifetime of incarceration in reforms schools and prisons. "Some might say I was bad," he wrote, "but really I was confused on what I really wanted in life, where I wanted to go in this world."
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a request for a stay from Williams' lawyer, who claimed that his client was mentally retarded and ineligible for execution according to a recent Supreme Court ruling. The Court denied this request. At his trial, testimony showed that Williams' scored 93 on a childhood IQ test, and a defense expert testified that Williams was not retarded.
Prior to his execution, Williams made a written statement complaining of the Texas criminal justice system, which he wrote was "just as crooked as I am said to be." He wrote that he should have "been given a chance in life instead of denial or incarceration every time I was arrested for something the community believed I did." This statement was released after his death. However, in his verbal last statement, Williams took an apologetic tone. "I'd like to apologize for all the pain I've caused," he told his victim's brothers. "I'm sorry I caused what happened to your sister. I apologize." As he continued his last statement, he expressed love to his family. He also said, "I was not a monster like they claimed I was. I made a mistake and this mistake cost -- but they won't cost no more." He gasped and wheezed several times as the lethal injection began taking effect. He was pronounced dead at 6:19 p.m.
By David Carson. Posted on 26 February 2003. Corrected on 12 June 2003.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Attorney General's Office, Associated Press, Huntsville Item.