William Wharton was a multiple murderer. It is revealed that he was indirectly responsible for framing John Coffey for the rape and murder of two girls and sending him to Cold Mountain Penitentiary.
William was eventually caught after a triple homicide (one of whom was a pregnant woman) and institutionalized at Briar Ridge Mental Hospital before being transferred to Cold Mountain for execution. Upon arriving at the prison, he pretends to be heavily drugged and gets the jump on the guards before being subdued. From then on, he takes great delight in harassing the guards and his fellow inmates alike.
As John is being escorted out of the prison to save Melinda Moores, Wharton grabs his arm, causing Coffey to see just how evil he truly is. Later that night, John takes control of Percy and has him kill William by proxy, explaining he punished them both for the things they had done.
Personality and Characteristics
William is a genuine psychopath. Described as a "problem child" by Hal Moores, he enjoys tormenting others and shows little, if any, remorse for his actions. As a result, the guards have to take drastic measures in order to control him while he is on death row. Like many Southerners of the time, he is also incredibly racist, believing even the electric chair should be segregated.
Despite his unpredictable nature, he is a huge admirer of Wild West icons and has adequate knowledge of their history. This is shown when Brutal intentionally calls him Wild Bill, prompting him to go berserk and explain the difference between Wild Bill Hickok and Billy the Kid. He also seems to be an attention hog and fears the padded room for its isolation.