Eight days after he pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for causing the death of a teenager, William Ronald Pulliam on Tuesday asked a Kanawha circuit judge if he could revoke his plea and have a new trial with a new attorney and an investigative team.
Pulliam’s handwritten letter was filed with the court Tuesday afternoon for consideration by Circuit Judge Charles King, who is presiding in Pulliam’s case.
In the letter, which appears to be dated for Aug. 8, 1999, he said he made his guilty plea under duress and that he was innocent.
“I feel I can beat these charges, but I will need a pro-bono lawyer with an investigative team,” Pulliam wrote. “Also because of the bad press I have received and the vilification of my name and reputation I am requesting a change of venue. [sic]”
Kanawha Prosecuting Attorney Chuck Miller said Tuesday he anticipated King would schedule a hearing to consider Pulliam’s request.
“I’m a little surprised at his request,” Miller said. “During the guilty plea, Judge King repeatedly asked Pulliam if he was sure he wanted to plead guilty. It is not impossible to withdraw a guilty plea, but it does require a valid reason, something I do not see in the letter.”
Miller said he had not been in touch Tuesday with members of James Means’ family to discuss the letter. Nafai Adkins, James Means’ mother, previously said she wasn’t satisfied with the plea deal and had hoped the case would go to trial.
On Aug. 5, Pulliam pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the Nov. 21, 2016, shooting that led to Means’ death.
Pulliam entered his plea as part of a deal that had Miller and Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Don Morris agreeing to recommend that 65-year-old Pulliam be sentenced to 20 years in prison.
At one point during the plea hearing, King asked Pulliam if he understood that he was waiving certain rights and whether there was anything the judge could do to change his mind.
“Not that I can think of, unless you have a better deal,” Pulliam responded.
Pulliam originally was charged with first-degree murder for Means’ death.
In the letter he sent to King on Tuesday, Pulliam said he was denied bail and wasn’t allowed a lesser charge after his arrest in 2016. He notes that police had not found “Mr. Means gun” until the day after Means died.
During the plea hearing on Aug. 5, Morris said a BB gun was presented amid a verbal altercation among Pulliam, Means and some of Means’ friends before the shooting.
Pulliam’s trial was set to begin Aug. 5, and he told King that he was prepared to go to trial on “8-5-99” before being presented with the plea deal by his public defender Barbara Brown.
He said he made the plea deal under duress after Brown told him he was likely to be convicted during his trial and that “James Means brother would be out to get me” if he were sentenced to prison.
Pulliam said he had the “utmost respect” for Brown, who is the third public defender to represent him, but he said he felt like she was too busy with her “day-to-day clients.”
“She has neither the time nor resources to defend me in a high profile case such as this,” Pulliam said.
Pulliam also said he has received “bad press” and “vilifacation of my name and reputation [sic]” and asked for a change in venue.
Toward the end of the letter, Pulliam also requests an investigation that he said would reveal police, prosecutors and his previous attorneys manufactured evidence against him and tampered with existing evidence.
“I am innocent,” Pulliam said. “I am being railroaded.”
Since his arrest in 2016, Pulliam has been represented by three public defenders and once was deemed incompetent to stand trial in May 2018. All of those matters led to delays in his trial.
King found Pulliam competent to stand trial after he received treatment at William Sharpe Jr. Hospital, in Weston.
Means’ death received national attention in 2016 after Charleston Police Detective Chris Lioi wrote in the criminal complaint that Pulliam said of Means’ death, “The way I look at it that’s another piece of trash off the street.
Pulliam is white, and Means, who was a freshman at Capital High School, was black.
Pulliam is incarcerated at Southwestern Regional Jail in Logan County.