District Attorney Todd Williams to serve on NC Innocence Inquiry Commission

Press release from the office of Todd Williams: 

The Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office announces the appointment of DA Todd Williams to serve as a Commissioner on the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission beginning in January 2021.  

“I believe in the work of this groundbreaking Commission and am honored to receive this appointment. I decided to run for District Attorney in 2014 after the Commission found that two men were wrongfully convicted in Buncombe County of murdering Walter Bowman.  The work of the Commission highlighted the need for local reform and was a centerpiece of my campaign to restore the trust and integrity of the District Attorney’s Office.  With this appointment, it seems we’ve come full circle and I look forward to contributing to the Commission’s important work,” DA Williams said.    

“I thank Chief Judge Linda McGee of the North Carolina Court of Appeals for making the statutory appointment to add me to the Commission,” DA Todd Williams said.

Since winning election to the Office of District Attorney, DA Williams has notedly worked to ensure that the convictions of all co-defendants in the Bowman murder were reversed, and successfully acted to remove two defendants (see Davis, Morgan) from North Carolina’s death row.  Additionally, DA Williams has supported relief in cases in which defendants have received excessive or disproportionate sentences, as in the case of James Eric Swinton

“A District Attorney is charged to do justice and that obligation does not end with a conviction and sentence,” DA Williams said. “I continue to review cases and seek justice for people whose sentences are grossly unfair and disproportionate, such as in the case of David Martin Beasley Young.”

On March 26th of this year DA Williams supported and consented to release David Martin Beasley Young from his life without parole sentence after Young had served a longer sentence than the shooter himself in a 1997 murder. The victim’s mother was consulted and agreed with Young’s resentencing.

On January 8, 1997, a co-defendant of Young, Christopher Davis, shot and killed Junior Welch during a drug deal.  According to testimony, Mr. Welch became angry and refused to pay for illegal drugs. Mr. Welch got out of the car and approached Christopher Davis.  Christopher Davis shot and killed Mr. Welch.  

Young was a 17-year-old accomplice at the time of the murder and was in the car with Davis at the time of the shooting. 

Mr. Young was offered a time-served plea but opted to go to trial in 1999.  He was found guilty and received a sentence of life-imprisonment without parole.  

Mr. Davis pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 23 years, 7 months imprisonment.

In addition to working to reverse wrongful convictions and consenting to appropriate sentencing relief, DA Williams has created new programs to broaden the scope of justice by holding expunction clinics and amnesty days.  These efforts can greatly reduce the costs and other barriers that prevent non-violent offenders from expunging criminal records or addressing outstanding legal issues that would otherwise create lifelong barriers to employment, housing, and education opportunities. All are designed to further justice, make the DA’s Office more accessible to the public, and enhance confidence in our justice system.

“It’s my hope that Buncombe County will continue to embrace new efforts to do justice for its citizens.  As we move forward, I call on our local judicial partners to join with us in completing a drivers license restoration program in 2021,” DA Williams said.  

Durham, Mecklenburg and several other North Carolina counties have either initiated or completed driver’s license restoration programs.  

Before taking office as Buncombe County DA, DA Williams worked for nearly 15 years as a public defender and as a capital defender after interning with civil rights, prisoner rights and employment law firms during law school. DA Willliams was elected a full two years before a wave of reform-minded prosecutors were elected nationwide in 2016; he was re-elected in 2018.  

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