Williams guilty of killing lawyers judge could sentence him to die

March 10, 1995|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Sun Staff Writer

Scotland E. Williams, convicted yesterday of murdering two lawyers in their weekend home near Annapolis in May, will go against his lawyers' advice Monday and ask an Anne Arundel Circuit judge, rather than a jury, to sentence him.

Williams, 31, of Arnold waived his right to have the jury that convicted him decide whether he should be sentenced to die by lethal injection for killing Jose E. Trias, 49, and Julie Noel Gilbert, 48.

The jury of eight men and four women deliberated about five hours yesterday before convicting Williams of two counts of first-degree murder, armed robbery, burglary and handgun charges. The two Washington lawyers were found shot to death May 16 in their weekend home in Winchester on the Severn.

After the verdict, Williams huddled with his lawyers, Craig Gendler and Linda Ostovitz, before deciding he wanted Judge Eugene M. Lerner, 63, to decide his fate. Williams could be sentenced to life in prison, life without the possibility of parole, or death by lethal injection.

Yesterday, Mr. Gendler said his client's decision will force a change in the defense's approach. He and Mrs. Ostovitz had anticipated arguing the penalty phase of the trial before a jury.

"We're in a position where we have to rethink some of what we were going to do," he said.

After the verdict, Ms. Gilbert's brother, Joseph Gilbert, said he had no strong feelings about whether Williams should be sentenced to die.

"The important thing to us was the conviction. We feel a sense of closure with this," said Mr. Gilbert, a businessman from Fairfield, Conn. He and his wife attended the seven-day trial.

Anne Arundel State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said he will argue for the death penalty because of the crime's heinous nature. "It's just a cold-blooded murder," he said.

The state's evidence showed that Williams broke into the victims' home, cuffed their hands behind their backs, put a .22-caliber pistol to their heads and shot them as they lay side by side in their bed.

During the trial, Williams' lawyers argued that the state's evidence showed their client was a thief but not a murderer. They also said there were too many unanswered questions about the case. Police never found a murder weapon, never explained why there were no signs of forced entry to the home, why the home security system was turned off or why much of Ms. Gilbert's jewelry was left untouched.

Cynthia M. Ferris, who prosecuted the case with Mr. Weathersbee, yesterday said she is not sure how Williams got into the victims' house or what happened in the moments before the victims were shot. But she said she is sure Williams, who stands 5 feet 1 inch tall, had the victims at his mercy. "Maybe he isn't a really big guy, but when he held a gun on them, they were totally compliant," she said.

Det. Timothy Zywiolek, the primary investigator, also said yesterday he is convinced Williams acted alone. "He always acted as a loner, and everyone said all along that it was like him to act alone," he said.

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