Williams found guilty second time of murdering 2 lawyers in 1994 Prosecutors to seek death penalty again

May 29, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Scotland E. Williams was convicted yesterday for the second time of murdering two Washington lawyers in their weekend retreat near Annapolis, and prosecutors again will press for the death sentence at a hearing Aug. 10.

Williams, 35, of Arnold showed no emotion as the verdict was read in a packed Anne Arundel Circuit courtroom. But the hands of Assistant State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess shook, the eyes of the victims' relatives welled with tears, and a whispered "yes" came from onlookers.

The jury deliberated for eight hours over three days. In 12 days of testimony, the jury heard 44 prosecution witnesses and 17 defense witnesses, and viewed about 200 exhibits.

Williams was convicted of first-degree murder, armed robbery and related charges in the deaths of Jose E. Trias, 49, and Julie N. Gilbert, 48. Their bodies were found May 16, 1994, in bed in their home in the Winchester on the Severn neighborhood. Each had been shot once in the head point-blank.

Killed a few days before their ninth wedding anniversary, the couple had planned a trip to Bermuda for the next week.

"There is no question in our minds that he is guilty. He was guilty the first time [in 1995], and he is guilty the second time," said Joe Gilbert, Julie's brother, who sat through both trials.

The Maryland Court of Appeals overturned the first murder convictions and death penalty in 1996, saying the judge had unfairly allowed some prosecution evidence and testimony while cutting short defense challenges to the prosecution's DNA evidence.

"We don't know whether we will have closure this time or not. If it's final, it gives us a sense of peace," Gilbert said. He criticized the appellate court but praised the tenacity of police and prosecutors.

The Court of Appeals, the state's highest court, automatically reviews death sentences.

Williams chose to be sentenced by the trial judge, Pamela L. North, who will hear about his troubled life, his theft and burglary convictions, and his thwarted prison escape.

"They have to prove that he was the one who did the shooting, and I don't think they can do that," said Nancy M. Cohen, one of Williams' three assistant public defenders.

The jurors would not comment on their verdict.

Leitess and State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said some jurors told them that they discounted much of the DNA evidence that defense lawyer Michele Nethercott contended was unreliable. They focused instead on a Maryland National Bank photo of Williams in Gilbert's red Acura withdrawing $1,000 about 15 hours before the bodies were found.

The defense suggested that the real killer gave Williams the car and bank cards that he used to steal $3,000, that Williams' brother Clayton was involved, that a convicted killer from Baltimore was involved and that county police botched the investigation.

Pub Date: 5/29/98

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