Defendant tried to fool experts, witness testifies

March 01, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

Scotland E. Williams, being tried in the shooting deaths of two lawyers, tried to throw off police handwriting experts by holding a pen differently when he gave them a sample of his writing, a prosecution witness said yesterday.

Jeffrey Cover, chief of the Anne Arundel County police evidence collection unit, told an Anne Arundel Circuit Court jury that Mr. Williams varied how he held a pen when he gave police a writing sample June 23.

Mr. Williams, 31, of the 800 block of Bradford Ave., Arnold, has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder and related charges in the deaths of Jose E. Trias, 49, and Julie Noel Gilbert, 48. The two Washington lawyers were found shot to death in their weekend home in Winchester on the Severn.

Both victims died from single gunshot wounds to the back of the head, fired from a gun that was "touching the heads when it was fired," according to testimony given by Dr. Ann M. Dixon, deputy chief state medical examiner.

Mr. Trias and Ms. Gilbert had been dead from 24 to 48 hours when they were found around noon May 16, she said.

Co-workers of Mr. Trias and Ms. Gilbert have testified that a note on the victims' door that read, "On vacation, be back 20 May" had not been written by either victim.

Yesterday, Mr. Cover said police wanted to see if Mr. Williams' handwriting matched that on the handwritten note. He told the jury of eight men and four women that Mr. Williams held the pen between his thumb, his middle finger and his ring finger as he gave police five samples of his writing. Mr. Williams was asked to write what was on the note.

"Most people hold [a pen] between their index finger and their thumb," Mr. Cover said.

Yesterday, Mr. Williams could be seen in the courtroom holding a pen in the traditional way, using his index finger and his thumb as he took notes on a legal pad.

Special Agent Gary Kanaskie, an FBI handwriting expert consulted by Mr. Cover, testified that he reviewed Mr. Williams' writing samples but could not determine if Mr. Williams had written the note found at the murder scene. Handwriting samples can "easily" be disguised by anyone who varies their grip on a pen, he said. He did say that Mr. Williams' writing samples showed a style very different from the writing in notes and personal papers confiscated in a May 19 search of his home.

In that search, police also found binoculars, two flashlights, two pairs of handcuffs, three sets of keys to the handcuffs and a pair of cotton gloves, Mr. Cover said. Prosecutors say the gloves shed fibers found at the murder scene.

In cross-examination by defense lawyer, Linda Ostovitz, Mr. Cover acknowledged that there were no choke marks on the victims that would connect the handcuffs to the slayings. He also said that, despite a thorough laboratory analysis, no blood or gunshot residue was found on the gloves.

Mr. Cover also acknowledged that police have not found the murder weapon or any evidence that the house was broken into before the killings. He also said Ms. Gilbert's missing jewelry, including a $7,000 bracelet, has not been recovered.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in the case.

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