- Governor of Virginia
Clemency for Travis E. Williams.
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A miscarriage of justice and unfair sentencing.
Re: Travis E. Williams v. Commonwealth of Virginia. Circuit Court No. CR04-558 through CR04-563.
The facts of this case are simple. A crime was committed, some property was damaged, some money was taken, no one was hurt, there were trial errors that deprived Williams of a fair trial, the person who committed the crime was found guilty and punished for his actions. The questions here are: (1) Is a 38 year prison sentence to harsh?, and (2) do the trial errors and the circumstances of the case warrant clemency?
On January 20, 2004 Travis Eugene Williams was arrested for the robbery of a Hardee's in Petersburg, Virginia. He was later coerced to confess to the robbery and then charged with multiple felonies. The detective presiding over the interrogation of Williams recorded over the footage confirming the alleged coercion and Williams was scheduled for trial on September 13, 2004. Prior to Williams' trial he was offered a plea agreement that was originally for 15 years but was changed to 12 years, yet Williams declined the plea agreement.
On September 13, 2004 Williams' trial ended in mistrial and a new trial was set for November 16, 2004. On November 16, 2004 Williams and his court appointed defense attorney raised the defense of coercion and requested that the video tape confession be kept out of the trial proceedings unless it could be shown with the footage confirming the alleged coercion. The court ruled to leave the video tape confession out of the trial proceedings due to its missing parts. Later during Williams' trial the Commonwealth's attorney still played the video tape confession for the jury with no objections from the judge nor Williams' court appointed attorney.
Prior to the introduction of the jury instructions, the defense attorney motioned to strike the Commonwealth's case and the court overruled. During the preparation of the jury instructions the Commonwealth's attorney was allowed to include a list of what was supposed to be a true list of Williams' prior convictions to show proof of moral turpitude effecting Williams' credibility as a witness. The jury instructions along with the list of prior convictions was given to the jury for deliberation and the jury returned with a verdict of guilty on all charges. Williams was later sentenced to 38 years in the Virginia penitentiary.
Williams was denied relief in the appeal courts and exhausted his pursuit of relief with the courts in this case.
Williams later discovered that the list of prior convictions that the Commonwealth's attorney introduced as evidence with the jury instructions at Williams' trial included several fraudulent felony and misdemeanor convictions. The fact that the jury was allowed to use the weight of the false convictions included in the Commonwealth's list of prior convictions to reach their verdict of guilty on all charges deprived Williams of a fair trial because one of the false convictions included in the list of convictions was robbery and this alone had the potential to negatively influence the jury to believe that Williams was a career criminal.
Travis Eugene Williams was only 19 years old at the time of the robbery. Considering the fact that he grew up in an economically challenged household as an undereducated and emotionally disturbed child in an environment that was tainted with poverty and crime, how could you not expect him to make a few bad decisions in efforts to survive? Think of the many mistakes and bad decisions you and countless others have made at that age.
Travis Williams is now in his early 30's and has been incarcerated over 13 years. During his incarceration he has matured and greatly bettered himself. He is predominantly self-educated with an unwavering passion for business/entrepreneurship and helping others. He has written and self-published several books that are currently available on Amazon. On March 18th, 2015 Williams founded the "Inmates for Entrepreneurial Progress" movement and later released the self-titled Inmates for Entrepreneurial Progress book. Inmates for Entrepreneurial Progress (IEP) is a developing movement of incarcerated individuals within the United States who are proactively taking their rehabilitation and entrepreneurial aspirations into their own hands in pursuit positive change and progress while incarcerated. IEP's mission is to show and maintain positive change through productive incarceration by means of self-rehabilitation, pursuing higher education, legally executing entrepreneurial/business plans via agents/fiduciaries on the outside, working to build and or become a part of supportive networks in efforts to continue in personal as well as financial growth, and working hard to be able to provide for their families despite being incarcerated. The Inmates for Entrepreneurial Progress book series stands as the fundamental learning tool for IEP-minded individuals incarcerated in the United States.
IEP further seeks to contribute to our nation's economic growth, development, and stability by connecting with IEP-friendly companies, independent contractors, and other, to introduce new ideas for solutions, services, and products in efforts to create and otherwise take advantage of promising and or beneficial business opportunities, make tax contributions on all taxable income, and to promote and otherwise grow in national anti-recidivism and prison reform. IEP, as a whole, intends to progressively create job and freelance opportunities for not only United States citizens, but for individuals abroad.
Williams admits that he has made bad decisions and gotten into trouble since he's been incarcerated. However, please understand that a few bad decisions and getting into trouble from time to time is expected when you are forced to live in a concentrated and enclosed environment with some of the most violent and of criminally inclined individuals in the state of Virginia.
"I accept full responsibility for the crime I committed and I am fighting for a chance to right my wrongs by first seeking forgiveness, and seeking early release so that I can work to repair the damage that I caused in my community. My plans are to
(1) secure employment while simultaneously functioning as a small business owner/entrepreneur,
(2) pay off all my court fines and restitution fees,
(3) give back to my community via participation in community service...among other things, and
(4) continue living my life as a productive citizen and positive role model in my community and abroad while trying to start and raise a healthy family. Being in prison has provided me with the time and experience that I needed to mature, grow, and turn my life around. I want to be free, with my family and loved ones, functioning as a productive citizen, and letting my light shine for all to see that I truly deserved a second chance. God knows I am ready for a second chance, but I still have leftover time to serve. At this point, keeping me in prison is overkill. The harsh realities of my confinement are eating away at my soul and I'm suffering beyond what my words can express."
Williams further admits that at the time of this robbery he had absolutely no intentions to hurt anyone (and no one was hurt). He only intended to take some money to help his family.
The charges that Williams was convicted of are deemed as violent crimes with mandatory sentencing. This resulted in Williams' 38 year prison sentence. Given the circumstances, 38 years in prison is outright unfair, especially when there are people throughout Virginia getting sentenced to 15 years or less in prison for murder and other server crimes. In this case the punishment does not fit the crime.
The only available remedy for relief at this point is clemency by the Governor of Virginia. Through clemency Travis Williams can receive a sentence commute that can relieve him of the remainder of his prison sentence. Williams has served over 13 years incarcerated. Isn't that punishment enough? At this point, to allow Williams to stay in prison is, as Williams called it, overkill.
WHEREFORE, in consideration of the facts and circumstances of this case, I respectfully request that the Governor of Virginia be merciful and grant Travis Eugene Williams clemency in the form of a sentence commute to relieve him of the remainder of his prison sentence.
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