Last week, William Pulliam — a 65-year-old Charleston, West Virginia man — agreed to plead guilty to second degree murder. He was originally charged with first degree murder for killing an African-American teenager named James Means. On Tuesday, the judge received a letter from Pulliam, asking for the plea deal to be revoked.
On the day William Pulliam’s first degree murder trial was scheduled, Kanawha County Circuit Judge Charles King considered a plea arrangement instead.
During the hearing, Judge King asked Pulliam — several times and in several different ways — if he understood what he was agreeing to. Pulliam said he’d “had a lot of time to think about this” and felt that a plea was in his best interest.
But three days later, the judge got a hand-written note from Pulliam saying he “made the plea under duress.” He wrote his public defender is not able to give him a proper defense because she’s too busy.
Pulliam wrote that his attorney advised him that, if the case went before a jury, he’d probably lose the case. He also claimed if he was sentenced to a state prison, “James Means brother would be out to get [him.]”
William Pulliam told the judge he believes he can beat the charges and now requests a “pro bono lawyer.” He also wants a change of venue because what he calls, the “bad press [he’d] received” has vilified his “name and reputation.”
Judge King will now hold a hearing to consider whether or not to change the plea. That hearing date has yet to be announced.
Sources within the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s office tell me that people frequently ask to withdraw a plea. However, it’s unusual for a judge to allow the change. But they add, “if Pulliam wants to revoke his plea, it’s possible that the judge might let him.”
Pulliam shot and killed James Means a few days before Thanksgiving in 2016. The story made national headlines — mostly because of what Pulliam said after he was arrested and confessed to shooting the teenaged boy. He told the arresting officer: “The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the street.”
The Means family has repeatedly said they do not believe they were getting the same justice that a white family would receive. When the plea deal was announced, Means’ mother Faye Adkins said she wanted the case to go to trial.