Death Row Inmates

Joseph Williams Georgia Death Row

joseph williams

Joseph Williams was sentenced to death by the State of Georgia for a prison murder. According to court documents Joseph Williams would murder a fellow inmate for he believed the inmate told guards about his planned escape. Joseph Williams would be convicted and sentenced to death.

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Joseph Williams 2021 Information

YOB: 1973
HEIGHT: 5’09”


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The evidence adduced in Williams’s sentencing trial showed that on July 24, 2001, Williams was a jail inmate at the Chatham County Detention Center.   See OCGA § 17-10-30(b)(9) (“murder was committed by a person in, or who has escaped from, the lawful custody of a peace officer or place of lawful confinement”).   Seven other inmates, including Michael Deal, were being held in the same unit as Williams.   Joseph Williams and four of the other inmates, Leon McKinney, Pierre Byrd, Michael Wilson, and John McMillan, discovered a loose window and used an improvised chisel to chip away at the wall around it.   Deal inquired what the men were doing but left when he was told “to mind his own business.”   Joseph Williams and other inmates began to suspect that Deal had informed, or was going to inform, the jail authorities about the escape plan.   McKinney suggested stabbing Deal with the improvised chisel, but Williams objected that there would be too much blood and that their plan would be frustrated.   The group then carried out an alternative plan to strangle Deal and make the killing appear to be a suicide.   McKinney engaged Deal in a discussion about their relative body sizes and then, facing Deal, lifted him in a “bear hug.”   Williams then began strangling Deal from behind with an Ace bandage.   Deal fell to the floor but did not immediately lose consciousness.   The evidence is unclear whether it was Wilson or Byrd, but one of those two men then assisted Williams by taking one end of the Ace bandage and completing the strangulation in a “tug-of-war.”   Byrd invited Anthony King, an inmate who had been friendly with Deal, into Byrd’s cell to distract King as Deal’s body was moved.   Williams then dragged Deal’s body to Deal’s cell, flushed the Ace bandage down the toilet, cleaned up blood and hair on the floor with a rag, flushed the rag, tied a bed sheet around Deal’s neck, and finally, with the assistance of McKinney and McMillan, lifted Deal’s body and tied the bed sheet to a grate in the ceiling to make the death appear to be a suicide.   After the murder, Williams and Byrd favored also killing King and Dewey Anderson, but McKinney and McMillan objected.   Byrd, later troubled by dreams about the victim, contacted his attorney, passed a note about the murder to a jail guard, and then directed authorities to the improvised chisel, the loosened window, and a letter about the murder written to him by Williams.   Williams confessed in an audiotaped interview conducted by a GBI agent.

In support of the OCGA § 17-10-30(b)(1) aggravating circumstance, the State presented three certified convictions of Williams, one for the armed robbery of Harry Jaymes, one for the murder of Iris Hall, and one for the murder of Taureen Graham.   The State also presented testimony regarding those three crimes.   Harry Jaymes testified that Williams delivered some stereo equipment, that he gave Williams a cash gratuity from a bag of money, and that Williams returned with an accomplice two days later on May 27, 1999, hit Jaymes in the head repeatedly with a handgun, and threatened to kill Jaymes if he did not reveal where the bag of money was.   Jaymes escaped, threw a brick through his car’s window to set off the alarm, and had a neighbor call police.   A GBI agent testified that Williams confessed during an audiotaped statement, which was played for the jury, to the murders of Taureen Graham and Iris Hall. Williams explained in the statement that he had been hired to murder Taureen Graham’s older brother but that, on July 31, 1999, he murdered the wrong person.   Janet Cooper testified that, during a drug deal on July 11, 1999, Williams held Cooper and Iris Hall at gunpoint, placed Cooper in a bathroom, and searched Hall’s house.   As Cooper escaped from the bathroom window, she heard the shots that killed Hall. At Williams’s trial for Hall’s murder, Williams “made slashing gestures and gunshot gestures” toward Cooper.   Williams later, in March 2004, gave a letter to Cooper in which he stated, “I’ve killed many men before that incident, even killed a couple afterwards.”   The letter continued as follows:

August will be an even five years of incarceration for me.   In those five years, I’ve killed two men, slit an officer’s throat with a razor, stabbed two inmates, and whipped my first lawyer’s ass.   I am who I am, Janet.   Those walls can’t stop me.

The evidence also showed that Williams had committed several other criminal acts.   A criminal defense attorney testified that Williams struck him repeatedly during a jailhouse interview on September 28, 2001.   A prison guard testified that Williams slashed his face and throat with a razor blade embedded in a newspaper on December 17, 2001.   Testimony from two prison officers to whom Williams confessed and testimony from the surviving victim showed that Williams murdered one prison inmate and repeatedly stabbed another with an improvised weapon on January 26, 2003.   In his audiotaped confession about the 2003 prison attack, Williams stated that he had also planned to kill a third inmate that day but the man’s cell door had been locked.

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