Man who won new trial in double slaying is arraigned

September 10, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Scotland E. Williams, who won a new trial in July after being sentenced to death in the 1994 slayings of two prominent Washington lawyers, was arraigned yesterday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court.

Williams, 33, of Arnold remained in a holding cell in the basement of the Anne Arundel County courthouse during the brief proceeding before Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr.

Williams waived his right to a bond hearing through his lawyer, county public defender Alan R. Friedman.

No trial date has been set in the case, which prosecution and defense lawyers say could take three weeks.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee and Assistant State's Attorney Cynthia M. Ferris are to prosecute the case again. But they haven't decided whether they will ask for the death penalty, said Kristin Riggin, an office spokesman.

Friedman said the defense trial team will be selected in the next few days.

The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled unanimously July 30 that Williams was convicted unfairly last year on charges that he killed Jose Trias,49, and his wife, Julie Gilbert, 48.

The victims were each shot in the head in May 1994 in their weekend home overlooking the Severn River near Annapolis. Williams was arrested three days after the bodies were discovered.

He was holding more than $2,000, which he allegedly stole from Gilbert's bank account by using her automated teller card. He was identified from videotape taken at ATM machines as he sat at the wheel of Gilbert's Red Acura Legend, which was stolen from the scene.

Defense attorneys argued that Williams had commited the burglary, but not the slayings.

He was convicted by a jury and sentenced to death in March 1995 by Judge Eugene M. Lerner.

But the Court of Appeals said Lerner mistakenly allowed prosecutors to question a defense witness about his juvenile record and placed too many restrictions on the defense in its questioning of DNA evidence. The judge also should not have permitted a pry bar and a can of Mace to be admitted into evidence, the court ruled.

Prosecutors said Williams used the tools to break into the victims' home, but Court of Appeals Judge Howard S. Chasanow wrote that the tools were not connected with the slayings and that showing them to jurors presented a "danger of unfair prejudice."

Pub Date: 9/10/96

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