Judges' questions on appeal suggest murder convictions may be upset

April 13, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The state's highest court appeared ready yesterday to reverse Scotland E. Williams' two first-degree murder convictions, questioning the evidence with such skepticism it left the prosecutor unsure if the verdict would be upheld.

Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia M. Ferris, who prosecuted Williams, said the hearing left her "uneasy." The hearing before the Court of Appeals, automatic in death penalty cases, focused on what she saw as minor flaws in a complicated trial that involved hundreds of pieces of evidence, she said.

"When you're looking at something complicated like that, I guess you're going to find a flaw," she said.

Williams, 33, was sentenced to the death penalty twice in March 1995 in the slayings of two Washington lawyers in their weekend home near Annapolis in 1994.

Williams' lawyers said their client deserved a new trial because Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Eugene M. Lerner allowed inadmissible evidence.

Michael Braudes, an assistant public defender, said Judge Lerner erroneously admitted burglary tools Williams was carrying when he was arrested that had nothing to do with the slayings.

Williams was apprehended May 19, 1994, leaving his house a few minutes after his photograph was broadcast on television.

Mr. Braudes said the crowbar and mace Williams was carrying and handcuffs and flashlights found in his home were inadmissible because there was no evidence to show he used them in the crime.

"There was no evidence in this case that implements of this type were used to get into the home of the victim," Mr. Braudes said.

The judges peppered Assistant Attorney General Anne Bosse with questions when she argued that Williams' decision to carry the burglary tools from his home showed a "consciousness of guilt" that made them admissible.

"I deign to say in a case like this, if there were pry bar marks anywhere, some police officer would have found them," Judge Howard S. Chasanow said.

Williams was convicted in the shooting deaths of Jose E. Trias, 49, and Julie Noel Gilbert, 48, at Winchester on the Severn.

Pub Date: 4/13/96

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