Local News

Judge lifts death penalty for Wayne County murderer

Posted February 2, 2012
Updated November 20, 2014

Marvin Williams killed Theron Price, a World War II veteran and security guard at Dewey Brothers in Goldsboro, where both men worked, during a robbery in 1989.

— A Goldsboro man on Thursday became the 17th prisoner to avoid the death penalty under a 2001 state law that prohibits the execution of mentally retarded prisoners.

Superior Court Judge Arnold Jones vacated the death sentence of Marvin Williams, 50, who was convicted of murdering Theron Price in 1989 during a robbery at the company where both men worked.

The law defines mental retardation as having an IQ below 70 and shows poor basic life skills. Williams has repeatedly scored below that on multiple tests.

"This is not something that I took lightly, nor do I take it lightly now," Jones said of his ruling. "This is what the law requires."

Williams was resentenced to life in prison on the murder charge and a 30-year consecutive sentence for a related burglary conviction.

Because he was sentenced under old structured sentencing guidelines, he can petition for parole in February 2016.

In 1994, state law eliminated the possibility of parole on a life sentence. However, the parole commission is obligated to parole offenders who were sentenced under the previous guidelines.

None of the 16 inmates taken off death row under the mental retardation statute have been released from prison.

The law also applies to other states, since the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision, after North Carolina's law passed, banning the execution of people with mental retardation.

The legal battle became an emotional one Monday as Price's family sat on one side of the courtroom, hoping for what they see as justice, while Williams' family sat on the other side, hoping that his life would be spared.

Pointing out that Williams has scored above and below the minimum IQ level, as defined by state statute, Price's nephew doesn't believe Williams is mentally retarded. Jerry Price said, "The public has a huge concern that, potentially in four years, he will be back on the street. The fact that he's given this opportunity is a disgrace."

Price's family and others said they are concerned that many judges are rubber-stamping the issue, simply letting people off death row.

Attorneys who defend death row inmates say that's not the case.

Defense attorney Glen Barfield argued Monday that Williams met both of the law's criteria for mental retardation at the time of the murder.

Prosecutor Branny Vickory argued that Williams knew exactly what he was doing when he repeatedly hit Price over the head, dragged his body into a nearby shed and tried to get into the company's safe with a blow torch.


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  • vandykebrune Feb 3, 2012

    @ vandykebrune........ sorry, lawyers and ethics do not belong in the same sentence.....
    ****** Last time I looked, my law license said it did - I'll do my job the way North Carolina says I should 32 years ago, you do yours the way you want to.

  • ralguy73 Feb 3, 2012

    I'm MR but: 1. I know how to use a blowtorch 2. I know what people keep in a safe 3. I know what money is.

  • tgentry1005 Feb 3, 2012

    How can a man go from death row to being considered for release without anything being said about the man being not guilty of the awful crime. What about the rights of the victims? I have not heard a word about the man that was killed being brought back to life....

    Seems too many are too concerned about rights of the criminal and they loose sight of the crimes they commit.

  • ccacrabbitdog Feb 3, 2012

    @ vandykebrune........ sorry, lawyers and ethics do not belong in the same sentence.....

  • vandykebrune Feb 3, 2012

    And in the meantime, let's move this man nextdoor to the lawyers that got him off..... I bet they wouldn't be so for him then!!!! So two faced!!!
    Actually, the man is going to stay in prison; the verdict voided the death penalty in his case, due to his mental retardation. It's not a matter of the law being for the criminal or against the victim. So hopefully, he won't be going to live next to you, either, any time soon. Lawyers are bound by the terms of their code of ethics to pursue defenses to the penalty, as well as the crime. Sorry, that's just the way it is -

  • charmcclainlovesdogs2 Feb 3, 2012

    I believe the judge made the right decision of life in prison. But he should never be allowed parole at no time. I still consider him a danger to society. So keep him lock up.

  • barbstillkickin Feb 3, 2012

    Make sure you remember this judges name when he runs for judge again. We need to get these liberal hearted people out of office that controls the murderers and lets them go free while the victims family has to keep suffering.

  • Mark Hayes Feb 3, 2012

    When you drop out of school in the 8th grade to start your life as a criminal or drug dealer what kind of I.Q. can one exspect,there are so many blacks that could hide behind this mental excuse in the future none of us will be safe,well I will since I would be prepared to help them get to where they are going to go.

  • LordHelpUsAll Feb 3, 2012

    Victims simply have no rights at all anymore. It's all about sparing the criminals.... and what rights they have that "might" have been violated... and if they weren't violated initially, if they sit in jail long enough, some aspiring lawyer with too much time on his hands will most assuredly come up with something! Really people!? Why don't we try caring about the victims for a change!!!!!! And in the meantime, let's move this man nextdoor to the lawyers that got him off..... I bet they wouldn't be so for him then!!!! So two faced!!!

  • hitider Feb 3, 2012

    What can I say? Anything that makes sense to me I am absolutely sure would not make it past this boards censorship.
    What could better explain this than Isaiah 5:20? Furthermore, all it takes for evil to prevail is for a few good men to sit around and do nothing. Does that ring a bell? When we do nothing long enough, that means that evil, which HAS been doing SOMETHING continuously, will prevail. Now, good people are so outnumbered and disorganized they have to sit around with their mouths shut...or be picked off one by one when they finally get courage to speak out. Let's keep on using mental retardation as an excuse to turn killers out of jail. Put a restraining order on the victims family to not protest. Give the killer a concealed-carry. Make him a news anchor on TV as therapy for mental retardation. Can I go on? How ridiculous can I get?