SECOND CHANCE: Commutation Consideration

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A Waterloo man convicted in a murder nearly 40 years ago could be set free.

A jury convicted Rasberry Williams of shooting and killing a man outside of a pool hall in 1974. After serving nearly 40 years behind bars, the Iowa Parole Board is recommending his life sentence be commuted, making him eligible for parole.

The 66-year-old can’t be released unless Gov. Terry Branstad approves it.

On Wednesday, a public meeting to collect input about the Williams’ possible release was held.

Gov. Branstad heard from the family members of the victim…

“The Bible tells us that if you want forgiveness, you must forgive, and I believe that,” says Dennis Reed, a cousin of the victim.

While relatives of murder victim Lester Givhan forgive Williams, they say it’s hard to think he could soon be a free man.

By many accounts, Williams is a changed man who even behind prison walls has left quite an impression on a lot of people.

Men who once served prison time with him told the parole board they credit him for helping turn their lives around.

“By Rasberry believing in me at the time when I didn’t believe in myself, has encouraged and strengthened me to be the man I am today,” says Ray Brown.

“He told me to pursue my education, which I did.  I got out, went back to school.  I got my associate’s, my bachelor’s, my master’s degree from the University of Iowa,” says Terry Sallis.

In letters to the parole board, other inmates say Williams stopped an inmate armed with a knife from trying to kill prison guards.

The governor, who has commuted life sentences of only two inmates during 18 years in office, is required to make a decision by May 4th.

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