Williams guilty of murders

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 for about five hours yesterday before convicting Williams of two counts of first-degree murder and 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 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., who attended the seven-day trial with his wife.

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 presented s evidence 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 at 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, said yesterday that 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.

Detective Timothy Zywiolek, the primary investigator, said yesterday that 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.

Williams' criminal history includes breaking into a home in Severna Park. He pleaded guilty to theft in connection with that break-in two months before the murders.

To win their case, prosecutors used 36 witnesses and more than 100 pieces of evidence, including videotapes of Williams using the victims' automated teller machine cards as he sat at the wheel of Ms. Gilbert's Red Acura Legend. The car was stolen from the murder scene and later found on a Baltimore street, police said.

Scientific experts testified that hair, glove fibers, shoe prints and DNA at the victims' house all belonged to Williams, a Persian Gulf veteran.

Jurors also saw graphic photos of the victims' bodies, two pairs of handcuffs and a bloody sweat shirt police confiscated from Williams' home. Williams also was carrying Ms. Gilbert's gold watch in a grocery bag when he was arrested outside the home he shared with his mother in the 800 block of Bradford Ave.

He also had $2,160. He was arrested May 19 as he left the house, minutes after a photo of him using the victims' ATM card identifying him as a suspect was broadcast by area television stations.

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