FBI expert at murder trial can't identify note's author Specialist uncertain whether it was written by defendant Williams

May 15, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An FBI handwriting expert told jurors in the Scotland Williams double-killing trial yesterday that he didn't know who wrote the "on vacation" note left on the door of the victims' home.

Surrounded by blowups of the defendant's handwriting and the note, Gary Kanaskie testified in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court that there are notable similarities between Williams' handwriting and the short note.

But the writer traced over the letters repeatedly, making an accurate judgment impossible, he said.

Questioned by prosecutor Anne C. Leitess, he said he could not exclude Williams as the writer.

Questioned by a defense lawyer, Kanaskie said, "My end conclusion is I don't know."

The testimony might have helped the defense, which is trying to cast doubt on the state's case against the 35-year-old Persian Gulf war veteran and is expected to put its handwriting expert on the stand next week.

Williams, who lives in Arnold, is accused of killing lawyers Jose E. Trias, 49, and Julie Noel Gilbert, 48.

Their bodies were found May 16, 1994, in their weekend home in Winchester on the Severn, each with a bullet in the brain. They had been robbed.

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the crime; which day the couple were killed is unknown.

Several family members and friends are attending the trial.

Williams was convicted in 1995 of first-degree murder and related charges and was sentenced to death.

In 1996, the Court of Appeals reversed the convictions, ruling that Judge Eugene M. Lerner unfairly allowed prejudicial evidence and testimony at the trial, while not allowing the defense enough leeway to challenge the genetic evidence prosecutors used to place Williams at the victims' home.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee is seeking the death penalty again.

Yesterday was the sixth day of testimony before Judge Pamela L. North, and the prosecution's complex DNA evidence and testimony have just started. The first trial lasted nine days.

Pub Date: 5/15/98

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