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Inmate Says Two Others Did The Beating In 25-Year-Old Murder Trial

August 23, 1985 GMT

CONWAY, Ark. (AP) _ A state prison inmate, whose allegations led to the trial of two ex- policemen for the 25-year-old cellblock death of a young black prisoner, testified Thursday that he saw two different men beat up the inmate in 1960.

Former Conway police officers O.H. Mullenax and Marvin Iberg are on trial for first-degree murder in the death of Marvin Williams in the Faulkner County jail on May 6, 1960, hours after they arrested him on a public drunkenness charge.

Although a coroner’s jury cleared the officers 25 years ago, the case was reopened last year after Charles Hackney, a prisoner at the jail the night Williams died, wrote officials that he saw a black man beaten that night.

But when Hackney took the witness stand Thursday, he said he saw the late sheriff, Joe Castleberry and jailer Joe Martin beat the prisoner.

″As far as I’m concerned, I don’t know what they’re doing with them (Mullenax and Iberg) on trial,″ Hackney told reporters after testifying.

Williams, a 21-year-old Menifee resident, was black. Mullenax, Iberg and Martin are white, as was Castleberry.

Hackney, who is serving time at the Wrightsville Unit of the state Correction Department for theft and burglary, testified that he saw two men bring a black man into the jail the night Williams was arrested.

″They turned him loose, and he fell to the floor,″ Hackney said.

He said he watched the two men beat the black man with a blackjack at the door to the jail.

Later that morning, Hackney said, he told then-prosecutor George Hartje, in Castelberry’s presence, that he saw Castleberry beat a man. ″The prosecutor told me if I wanted out of his jail, I would say as I was told,″ Hackney said.

Hackney testified before the coroner’s jury but did not mention a beating.

Hartje, now a circuit court judge, disqualified himself from the murder trial, but he and the jailer, Martin, are scheduled to appear as prosecution witnesses.

Hackney said he pursued the matter when the late Doyle Driskill, an inmate at the Wrightsville Unit, told him last year that no charges were filed in Williams’ death.

Meanwhile Thursday, defense attorneys attacked the qualifications of the doctor who performed the autopsy on Williams’ body the day he died, and has since said he would classify the death as murder.

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Dr. Edward O. Fox was a resident clinical pathologist at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in 1960. He said Williams died of a brain hemorrhage caused by a skull fracture behind his left ear.

When asked by Bart Mullis, Mullenax’s lawyer, whether he was competent at the time of the autopsy, Fox said, ″No.″

″It’s not a question of being careful. I was,″ Fox said. ″But there were areas in which I lacked competence.″

Iberg and Mullenax told the coroner’s jury that Williams fell and hit his forehead as he was being taken to jail. The coroner’s jury did not see his autopsy report, or tests that said there was no alcohol in Williams’ blood.

Fox said no law officers asked him about the autopsy, and that he was not asked to share his findings with the coroner’s jury.

When asked by Mullis why he did not tell the later Robert McNutt, then Faulkner County’s Coroner Robert McNutt that he believed Williams had been murdered, Fox said that was not his responsibility.

″I told them I found a skull fracture. I didn’t tell them what I thought,″ Fox said. ″The coroner of this county was not interested in my opinion.″