In recent interview, condemned inmate professes innocence

MANSFIELD, Ohio (AP) - Convicted killer Lewis Williams, scheduled to die next month for killing a 76-year-old woman in a 1983 robbery, says he's innocent of the crime. If put to death, he would be the first Ohio inmate to die whose mental retardation claim was rejected.

"I wasn't there. I didn't do it," Williams said Monday in an interview with The Associated Press on death row at Mansfield Correctional Institution. "I did not commit these crimes. I would not commit those crimes against a person like that. I have sympathy and sincere condolences for the family."

Prosecutors dismiss Williams' claim of innocence, saying courts have upheld his conviction several times.

Williams claims "are the same claims he's rehashing again at the 12th hours of his execution," said Jon Oebker, an assistant Cuyahoga County prosecutor.

Williams, 44, was convicted of killing Leoma Chmielewski, who was severely beaten and shot in the face on Jan. 21, 1983. He said he was in her house the night she died but said he left before she was killed.

In June, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Janet Burnside ruled against Williams' claim that he should not be put to death because he said he is mentally retarded. Defense attorneys hired an expert who later determined he is not mentally retarded, Oebker said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)