Convicted Killer of Corrections Officer Eric Williams Escapes Death Penalty, Consequences
Wilkes-Barre, PA - On Monday, July 10, Jessie Con-ui, age 40, was sentenced to life in prison without parole, when one juror held out and refused to vote for the death penalty. There will be no justice for the family of brutally murdered Senior Federal Correctional Officer Eric Williams.
According to the Times-Leader, the lone juror who held out was the foreperson of the jury, and she broke down in tears after five hours of deliberations before admitting to the other jurors that she could not give Con-ui the death penalty. The reason: she felt sorry for Con-ui's mother because her own son is in jail.
His sentence automatically became life in prison without parole. That lone juror said that "...Eric couldn't be brought back", and "There’s enough bad things in the world the way it is, and I can’t see taking a life.”
Juror number 7, Amy Weidlich, said, “When a person tells you no matter what you say that they’re not changing their mind, at what point do you say, ‘OK, they’re not changing their mind?"
As the jury prepared to enter the courtroom with its verdict, she said that she gathered the jurors together to do the only thing they could do, which was pray. Weidlich said that they prayed for Officer Williams' family, because of the verdict that they were about to deliver, and for Eric, and for Con-ui's family, since that was what the lone juror was concerned about.
The incident occurred on February 25, 2013, inside the high-security Canaan federal prison. Officer Williams, age 34, was brutally attacked by Con-ui, and the murder was captured on an almost 11-minute long prison video.
During that video, which the jurors watched several times, Con-ui can be seen stomping and stabbing Officer Williams over 200 times with a pair of homemade shanks. Con-ui took breaks to wash a cut on his hands, get something to drink, and helped himself to gum that he found in Officer Williams' pocket. Weidlick said that she cried while watching the video.
Con-ui was charged with one count of first degree murder, one count of first degree murder of a federal corrections officer, and one count of possessing contraband in prison. He was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes on June 8.
Weidlich said that she could not get over the brutality of the crime, and that Con-ui never "answered why he did it." She wondered if he might snap in the courtroom, and hopes he is kept away from other correctional officers in prison.
Weidlich also went to the foreperson of the jury and asked her "if she was willing to go before Williams' parents and tell them their son's death will go unpunished." She said that the foreperson kept saying that she felt bad for Con-ui's mother.
She said that she and other jurors sought out Williams' family after the verdict, but his father was already outside, "expressing his shock and anger over the decision." She wanted Williams' family to know that 11 of the 12 jurors cared, and fought for justice.
In March, 2016, the Eric Williams Correctional Officer Protection Act, was passed and became law. It changed Bureau of Prisons policy, and allowed correctional officers to carry pepper spray.
After Con-ui was sentenced, a petition was initiated to urge lawmakers to make the death penalty automatic for those that murder officers. Ann Russell, who started the petition on change.org, said that it should be called Eric's law.
As of Thursday, July 10, the petition had been signed by 6,925 people, and it is scheduled to be delivered to Representative Tom Marino, R-Pennsylvania, and Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pennsylvania, after a certain period of time.