`This Boy Didn’t Have a Friend in the World’ ‘Ain’t No Defense . 1 Robert Fields, one of the two court-appointed defense attorneys, has a walk-up office on the town square in Athens. He has his office off one side of the reception room, and his partner is off the other side. “It was awful mean,” he said. “That’s the first time I ever tried a case where there wasn’t any defense at all. “Of course, you understand about this East Texas. A Negro raping a white woman, hell, they ain’t no defense to it, practically. “What really made this case bad, he used a knife, and of course he loved around on her. He was arrested within an hour. She knew him, and he gave a written confession. It was the roughest case I ever got hold of in my life.” What had Williams told them, his lawyers? “We asked him about it. He didn’t deny it. He didn’t repudiate the confession. He said he told ’em how it happened. He said he signed it and there was no coercion.” His later arguments all “appeared after the trial,” Fields said. The beatings, Fields said, “didn’t happen … That’s the first thing we quizzed him about, any mistreatment at all.” Fields said the only defense, and it “didn’t he’p him,” was argument against the death penalty. “It turned out that this boy didn’t have a friend in the world.” Witnesses for him either “were not witnesses at all or were reluctant to get into it at all.” “I argued to the jury that this boy was young . . . and had never had any opportunity,” ‘Fields said. AUSTIN Death missed Charles Williams by ten hours Wednesday. He was to be electrocuted Thursday before sunrise, but he received a 15-day stay until June 3 under unusual circumstances. Five students at the University of Texas stated, in a Daily Texan story Wednesday, they intended to maintain a vigil at the Capitol that night if Williams was going to be executed. Thomas Dent, Williams’ Galveston attorney, had stated that a final federal appeal for a writ of certiorari and commutation of sentence would delay the execution. Wednesday morning, however, Jack Ross, chairman of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, said Dent’s appeal was not yet “perfected.” The U.S. Supreme Court had his brief, but no copies of the federal hearing record,* and in a ruling by Justice Brennan and Black had denied the commutation. Ross presumed they had so acted because the appeal had not been properly filed. “We are in touch with the Supreme Court now,” Ross said. He added sharply, “I don’t know why Dent waits till the last minute, till about time to pull the switch on this thing, and hasn’t done what he’s supposed to do to protect his client.” At 2 o’clock Wednesday afternoon, the board and the governor granted the stay. “Here’s the position we’re in,” Ross told the Observer. “As of noon today, that record had not yet been received . . . Dent’s a funny fella .. . We could legally just deny the appeal chair. In fairness to the person, we feel we should give his attor THE TEXAS OBSERVER Page 6 May 20, 1961 “He didn’t have any parents, illegitimate evidently, and lives back and forth.” His own relative had testified against him about telling ‘ her to say he had ‘gone to Houston. “I was going along this point … this nigger was a young nigger never had opportunity. “When we qualified the jury I asked would they give him the same consideration they would a -white boy? They all promised me they would. I asked them to consider him as their own’ boy. I told ’em not to gang up on him. I was trying to make ’em feel sorry for him.” But, Fields said, “It’s just a matter of a case you’ve got to try. This is the kind of case if he’da had a thousand lawyers, he’da had no defense.” If the case had been a white man raping a Negro woman, would he have got the death penalty? Fields said at once, “Ordinarily they wouldn’t have. You know that. Everybody in the world knows that.” If the man was white there would be a defense, but “if it’s a nigger, It’s just not there.” Why had they not put Williams on the stand? “He was scared, and he wasn’t the brightest man in the world. He was relying on his lawyers.” County Attorney Nat Patton, who took the confession, is “the easiest talkin’, easiest goin’ man you ever talked to in your life.” Williams, said Fields, had “committed a crime they had proved beyond a sense of a defense.” Fields indicated he and Julian advised Williams to plead not guilty. “He would’a done anything we ney a chance to get on the y \(SuFrom Asst. Atty. Gen. Riley Fletcher, the Observer obtained a copy of Dent’s federal appeal brief for Williams. The 5th circuit court at New Orleans had rejected his appeal from the federal hearing in Houston. The New Orleans judges ruled that there was no charge of unseemly conduct or threats of bodily injury at the trial, that Williams’ trial defense counsel “was alert and vigorous in cross-‘ examination and in objecting to evidence and that the trial court was prompt to protect the accused’s legal rights. “In light of the failure of the accused to raise the issue of coercion on the trial, although represented by competent counsel,” concluded the New Orleans court; “and in view of the overwhelming testimony of regularity in the giving of the confession, and further in light of the admission by the defendant in the habeas corpus trial that the act of intercourse had actually occurred thus eliminating all question of identification present in many rape cases . . . the judgment is affirmed.” In his appeal, Dent alleged that the confession was “exorted by brutality and violence” and Williams’ trial lawyers’ failure to object to its introduction was “inadvertence or incompetency,” and they also “refused to allow him to testify.” Dent cited Williams’ removal to an adjoining county as evidence “The mob spirit was present.” Williams’ testimony the sexual relations were voluntary “is not contradicted, and should be believed,” the appeal says. “The trial was a farce,” it concludes. Fletcher said appeals of this kind, when in good order, sometimes take the Supreme Court two months or so to decide. told him,” he said. “I think that’s what he’s doing now with this new lawyer he’s got.” Fields said a jury should be able to give a man a number of years in prison and be sure he will get it. Now, he said, it’s “all ‘ or nothing.” Fields thinks execution all right in some cases, “for instance, this very case I’d be for it; gangland killings, killing people for money.” In this case, one time the jury “seemed to be hung up.” They had wanted to know, “if they gave him life in prison would he serve it? There are a lot of people in the world who would not give the death penalty in a lot of cases if they could be sure that the sentence they impose would actually be served. Fifty years is a lot of years. . . . They figure 99 years, he’ll get out in 15, 20 years, and they figure that crime is more serious than that, so they figure it’s the only way out” \(the death “I’m for the death penalty,” he said. “I don’t think it’s sufficient punishment. I would think 20, 30 years in jail would be worse than the death penalty. As far as deterring crime, it makes a lot of people think . . .” Judge Says ‘Guilty’ The presiding judge at Williams’ trail, V. M. Johnston, lives at Palestine. He favors the death penalty. He had tried three cases which resulted in verdicts for execution, including the Williams case, and each time it was justified, he said. Each of these three cases involved rapes of whites by Negro men. The first one, a decade and a half ago, involved a 24-year-old Negro who “waylaid a little girl on the way home from school.” She was nine years old. The second one four or five years ago involved a 30-year-old Negro who broke into a bedroom at night and raped a 13-year-old white girl “two or three times.” “I just can’t see any reason at all” for abolishing the death penalty, Judge Johnston said. In any of the three cases in question, he responded, white men raping Negro women would have gotten the death ‘penalty, too. Money does not make it possible for a person to evade the death penalty, he said: “Under bad enough circumstances, anyone might get the death penalty.” “I’ve tried a lot I was pretty sure were guilty and they were turned loose. I’ve never tried any where there was any doubt of guilt that was given a term,” said the judge in a telephone interview. ‘Enticement’ Claimed Dan Julian, the other defense lawyer, has his office in the back of a clothing store in Crockett. A thin young man, native , to Crockett, he went to Baylor Law School. Had he told them nothing about his present defenses before the trial? Julian replied: “The nigger didn’t tell ahe really put us on the spot. The only thing he told us was, he claimed that he was sucked into the thingenticed into it. The enticement was such a flimsy thing.” In the trial, the lawyers did not use this, but, Julian reaffirmed, he mentioned this.” Fields and Julian “did not want to tell the jury this,” Julian said. nesses. He had none. We told him that woulda got him hung quicker than anything he could do. And I do think that was” what would have happened. “He had no hope but to keep quiet,” Julian said, “because he was just a terrible witness plus the fact he had no character witnesses. His mother came in,” but they decided she would not make a good witness. No one they asked had anything helpful to say about him. It would just make the “jury mad,” and there was “no proof.” As for Williams’ guilt, Julian said, “There was probably less doubt about this one than any one I’ll ever get mixed up with.” Julian also believes Williams “cooked our goose” when he came up with the story about beatings. This, Julian said, did not come up until after the trial. And capital punishment? “At least three jurors” indicated to Julian that “they didn’t believe in capital punishment generally except when it came to taking a mad dog off society.” These three asked him “if we give him anything less than death, how long will it be before he can get parole. What they wanted to know was whether they could put him in to stay.” Julian said he believes Tarrant County D. A. Doug Crouch’s plan for life without parole in lieu of the death penalty “woulda got this nigger life.” As to reversing the racial roles, “In the same situationwhite boy, no friends, no character witnesses . . . same offense, it wouldn’t of been the same, he’d of had a sliightly better chance; but he’d of had an excellent chance to get the chair,” Julian said. A Dramatic Moment County Attorney Nat Patton has an office in the Houston County courthouse, looking out over the square. His secretary sits in a little office outside his. Patton is a mild, friendly man, easy-going and direct. “We usually hope these things don’t happen. We’re not bloodthirsty about these things,” Patton said. “He wasn’t beat. The man just made a confession that he did it. The night he did it.” He had given this confession to Patton? “Sure did.” Was Williams scared? “I don’t think so. He admitted committing the crime twicehe outlined it, told me how he did it. I didn’t even know what it was till he came in.” Asked about the death penalty, Patton said, “I’ve never wanted to build a record with convictions. It’s hard on you to try one of these cases. You just sense it. The family there that have been injured brothers and sisters. They shock any man with a’ conscience. Shock him. He’d rather they hadn’ta happened. But you hire out to the state, you got to work. “In this case, we just tried it. We made no strong effort, and the woman made the strongest witness you ever saw.” Advised of Julian’s information Williams had alleged consent to his lawyers, Patton was surprised, and went to the door and shut it. Jim Tucker Insurance Agency Auto Home . . . Business 6511 South Park Blvd. Houston, Texas Phone MI 4-1641 “The boy admitted it,” he said as he returned to his chair. “I said how’d you do it. He said just like . . . He had a knife on ‘erthere at the house.” He discussed his going to New Mexico or Arizona to get away. “She testified to all of that.” “They made us prove everything we had,” he said. “Hell, I hate to see a hot check case come in. We try to work out hot check cases, things like that.” At this joint, Julian came in. He had been aware the reporter was going to call on Patton. After discussing another matter, Julian said there was “only one other thing.” He wanted to know if any of the other trial lawyers had mentioned the enticement contention. No, he was advised. “I don’t know how you’re going to use it,” he said, and was told simply as part of the facts for the story. He said that “I’d testify to it if I was subpoenaed in court,” but that since it had not come out on appeal, he would like to “pull it back.” Advised it had come out on appeal, he was surprised, stood up, and stated: “There was reference to it, and the reason it wasn’t used was there was no substantiation, and the high reputation of the defendant. “That’s my statement, because I don’t believe in suppressing anything.” No Comment The Observer then proceeded to interview Mrs. Jones. She lives in East Texas, in the country. As the reporter entered her yard, two dogs were barking furiously. A car was parked in the drive-way, and clothes were hanging out to dry. A shotgun shell, its blue case crushed by a foot, lay in the yard; on the porch were scattered childrens’ toys. The afternoon sun played through the doors and windows on the floor inside. To repeated knockings and callings of the prosecutrix’ name, no one responded. The reporter left. A subsequent attempt to reach her by telephon2 was unsuccessful. A letter to her reviewing the evidence and asking for comment on the death penalty and its being carried out on Williams elicited no reply. Before returning toEast Texas late last week to try again to interview Mrs. Jones, the Observer called again on the telephone and reached her. She said she had received the letter. In response to a question
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