Jesse Jackson to be in Stillwater to appeal for mercy in rape case
BY RHETT MORGAN World Staff Writer
Thursday, August 23, 2012
8/23/12 at 8:12 AM
STILLWATER - Coming in a "spirit of mercy," veteran civil rights leader Jesse Jackson said he will speak at a public forum Thursday on behalf of a former Oklahoma State University basketball player recently was convicted of rape and sexual assault.
Jackson, a minister, heads the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, which has its national headquarters in Chicago.
Darrell Williams, also of Chicago, was convicted July 23 of two counts of rape by instrumentation and one count of sexual assault.
Jailed since the convictions, he is scheduled to be sentenced at 1:30 p.m. Friday in Payne County District Court.
"We're not coming in a spirit of combat," Jackson said Wednesday in a telephone interview. "We're coming in a spirit of mercy. We hope the judge will hear our appeal about this young man."
Jackson will be a keynote speaker at the Social Justice Advocacy Forum from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Mount Zion Baptist Church in Stillwater. He said he plans to stay in town for Williams' sentencing Friday.
"I'll be there to be a witness," he said. "I'm willing to play any role I can to be helpful."
The jury recommended one-year sentences for the rape convictions and no time for the sexual assault.
Jackson said he is concerned about the makeup of the jury, which he said comprised 11 whites and one Asian, and whether Williams was misidentified, a possibility the defense raised at trial. The acts occurred at a house party that other OSU players also attended, testimony indicated.
Williams is black. The victims, both of whom testified that Williams stuck his hand down their pants without consent, are white.
"Now that the conviction has occurred, we will appeal to the judge to be merciful and be sensitive," Jackson said. "There are ways you can throw away the key or you can use gentle gestures of mercy. It's important that we have a sense of mercy tempering justice.
"We're very sensitive to the very idea of rape, which we find appalling," he said. "Because it's such a big deal, it's important that there is positive identification. We have spent a lot of time with people who are innocent victims.
"That's why you have to have in a court of law reasonable doubt."
As an OSU player, Williams was a member of the Big 12 All-Academic team. OSU men's basketball coach Travis Ford testified for the defense at Williams' trial, and Ford and OSU Athletic Director Mike Holder sat in the front row for closing arguments.
Williams' brother, Derrick Williams, was fatally shot in Chicago in 2009.
Darrell Williams "came out of Chicago with an excellent reputation and family background," Jackson said. "I think that's why people are rallying around him. He is the one who emerged with a sense of future in him. He is the one who had a way out who found a way out, so he is held in high esteem. ...
"His going to school was a big deal to his family and all of us who watched him grow up," he said.
The Social Justice Advocacy Forum is the second in a series of forums that will take place at regular intervals in rural and urban areas around the state.
It is a collaborative effort between several state and national organizations that are dedicated to generating dialogue, discussion and education about systemic causes of disenfranchisement and mass incarceration.
A social-media campaign (facebook.com/FreeDarrellWilliams; twitter.com/FreeDarrell) declares Williams' innocence, denounces the guilty verdict and requests an appeal because of a lack of evidence.
Williams' family is trying to raise money to pay for an appeal. A fund has been set up and is accessible at freedarrellwilliams.com.
Jackson came to Tulsa in April to preach healing in the wake of the Good Friday shootings that left three people dead.
"Although it is a horrible scene that these blacks have been killed, we should be nonviolent and disciplined," he said of the April slayings. "I think we did some things to mitigate what could have been a riot.
"You shouldn't condemn all of the city because of mad men," he said then. "I reached out to white churches and white leaders in identifying that common ground. I'm still seeking that common ground, trying to combine mercy and justice."
Darrell Williams public forum
When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Mount Zion Baptist Church, 902 S. Knoblock St., Stillwater
Jesse Jackson appearance
What: A discussion of voters' rights and registration
When: 11 a.m. Thursday
Where: St. John Missionary Baptist Church, M.L. Jemison Conference Complex, 5700 N. Kelley Ave., Oklahoma City
Original Print Headline: Jackson to appeal for mercy in rape case
Rhett Morgan 918-581-8395
The Rev. Jesse Jackson (left) and Darrell Williams: Jackson will be in court during the sentencing of Williams, a former OSU basketball player who was convicted of rape. Jackson and others say Williams was wrongfully convicted