When Scotland E. Williams goes on trial today on charges of shooting a husband and wife to death in their home last May, prosecutors will have an arsenal of evidence at their fingertips.
Williams was videotaped using one victim's bank card. He was arrested wearing the other victim's watch, police say.
The prosecution's witness list includes 27 police officers, 11 state and county police lab technicians, six experts from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, three state medical examiners and two privately retained scientists.
Even with this array of witnesses, prosecutors likely will focus much of their case on the tiniest piece of evidence police found in a 20-hour search of the victims' house -- DNA scraped from a drinking glass.
That evidence alone may be sufficient to win a conviction, criminal lawyers say.
"The DNA is crucial," said George S. Lantzas, a former prosecutor who does criminal defense work. "You've got to attack the DNA as unreliable."
Along with the DNA, much of the prosecution's case will hinge on scientific evidence, such as hair and pieces of clothing police gathered at the scene.
"This is really a crime-scene-technician-type case," said William C. Mulford II, a former prosecutor who now handles criminal defense. "It all depends on the issue of, was the evidence seized at the scene reliable and trustworthy?"
Williams of the 800 block of Bradford Ave. in Arnold is charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of Jose E. Trias, 49, and his wife, Julie Noel Gilbert, 48. The two Washington lawyers were found shot to death May 16 in their weekend home in Arnold.
If Williams is convicted in Anne Arundel Circuit Court, prosecutors will ask that he be sentenced to death. The case will be heard before Judge Eugene M. Lerner.
Williams' three court-appointed attorneys have declined to discuss their trial strategy. But other criminal defense lawyers say that to win an acquittal, the defense must attack the reliability of the DNA test and also argue that the fact that Williams had the victims' possessions doesn't mean that he killed the couple.
"You could admit that he's a thief, but not a murderer," Mr. Lantzas said. "Argue to the jury that he's a stupid thief, not an intelligent murderer."
The type of DNA used in the Williams case, Polymerase Chain Reaction, or PCR type DNA, is not the type of DNA automatically accepted as admissible in court under Maryland statutes.
Prosecutors say they used that type of DNA test because the tissue sample taken from the drinking glass was so small that a more readily accepted DNA test could not be used. The prosecution says the DNA sample matches Williams'.
Defense lawyers interviewed last week were divided about whether Williams should take the stand and testify. A crucial factor would be how credible he appears in interviews, they said.
If Williams does testify in his own defense, prosecutors will be able to mention his criminal record, which includes a felony theft conviction last March that stemmed from a housebreaking. He is on probation for that conviction.
Jurors also will have to ask themselves whether Williams, at 5 feet 1 inch tall, could commit a double homicide, legal experts say.
If Williams does not testify, jurors will be instructed not to hold that decision against him.
Still, many defense lawyers say that jurors generally want to hear from the defendant and that if he does not testify, jurors will wonder why.
"As human beings, we want to hear from the defendant, we want to hear his account of the events and get his side," said Peter S. O'Neill, another experienced defense lawyer.
The trial is expected to last two weeks.