Killer found guilty again Jury in retrial convicts Williams of murdering two lawyers in 1994

State to seek death penalty

First verdict, was overturned by appeals court

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

Scotland E. Williams was convicted for the second time yesterday of murdering two high-profile 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 his wife, Julie N. Gilbert, 48. Their bodies were found May 16, 1994, in bed in their home in the affluent 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 XTC 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. Before the sentencing, North will hear about such things as Williams' 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 either tainted or unreliable. They focused instead on a Maryland National Bank photo of Williams in Gilbert's red Acura withdrawing $1,000 with her bank card about 15 hours before the bodies were found.

"There he was, enjoying the fruits of the crime before the crime was discovered," Weathersbee said.

Prosecutors pointed to Williams' shoe print on the victims' kitchen floor near the counter where a drinking glass was found, Weathersbee said. DNA remarkably similar to Williams' was found on the glass, he said.

About nine months earlier, Williams had been questioned about another burglary. The detective who made a photocopy of the sole of Williams' ladies' size 7 1/2 shoe that day saved it, and police testified that it matched the print found in the kitchen.

Other evidence included hairs in the bedroom that were consistent with Williams' DNA and a sign on the door that could have been written by Williams.

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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