Tonight’s Execution: Jefferey Williams, Texas

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Correction: This post was supposed to auto-publish today, but was accidentally published yesterday. Williams’ execution is set for tonight. Please pardon the mistake.

Editor’s note: There are inconsistent spellings of Jefferey/Jeffrey’s name in news reports. I’ve gone with the one listed on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s site. 

Attorneys are appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to stop tonight’s scheduled execution in Texas.  Update: Jefferey Williams has been executed in Texas.

Jefferey D. Williams was slated to die this evening in Huntsville for the 1999 shooting of Houston police officer Troy Blando. From the Associated Press

Blando was working as a plainclothes officer doing auto theft surveillance when he stopped Williams, who was driving a stolen Lexus. As Blando was putting handcuffs on Williams, he was shot.

Williams’ lawyers argue his punishment should be halted while the high court reviews whether his legal help at his trial and in earlier stages of his appeals was deficient.

When Williams was arrested shortly after the shooting, he was still wearing the officer’s handcuff on one of his wrists.

Williams’ attorneys argued that his earlier trial attorneys were inefficient, missed filing deadlines and failed to present evidence during the sentencing hearing that would have spared him the death penalty.

However, according to the Houston Chronicle, Williams’ other claims of ineffective counsel were unsucccessful. From the Chronicle: 

To date, Williams’ ineffective counsel claims have fizzled. Now, Sheldon hopes a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling, Martinez v. Ryan, will prompt the courts to take another look.

The ruling allows reconsideration of a rejected ineffective counsel claim if it is “substantial” and if it can be proved that an appeals lawyer’s performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness. It requires proof that, had legal representation been adequate, the trial’s outcome may have been different.

Williams, 37, was represented in his February 2000 trial by veteran Houston defense lawyer Donald Davis. Months after Williams’ conviction, Davis committed suicide. Williams’ appeals attorney was Jules Laird, a former Harris County assistant district attorney.

Laird on Friday said he filed two petitions on Williams’ behalf, one dealing with constitutional issues of the killer’s initial trial, and a second asserting mental disability claims. “I talked to the family, reviewed the files and did my own investigation,” he said. “… I don’t recall filing late, but if the court says I did, I did.”

Laird said he does not remember whether he raised the issue of ineffective counsel.

Williams last-minute appeals were denied and the execution proceeded as planned. The lethal injection began at 6:10 p.m. local time and Williams was pronounced dead at 6:36 p.m.

According to the Houston Chroniclethere were no witnesses that were related to or friends of either the victim or Williams. The witness chamber was filled instead with police officers.  In his final statement, Williams insulted the police and accused them of getting away with murder.

The Chronicle story also includes a response to Williams’ last statement from Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers Union.

“The fact that to the end he continued to ridicule police officers shows what a thug he was,” Hunt told reporter Allan Turner outside the chamber. “I have no sympathy for him. I have sympathy for his family, but not for him.”

Williams was the 498th execution in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated.

Related Reading:

Cop Killer Makes Last-Ditch Appeal to Save His Life

Death Watch: New Appeal Argues Ineffective Defense

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