State seeks sentence of death in murders Penalty hearing for Scotland Williams begins in Arundel

August 11, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A double murder and an incarceration history that includes an attempted death row escape in 1995 make Scotland E. Williams a candidate for the death penalty, Anne Arundel County prosecutors argued yesterday at the opening of a life-or-death sentencing proceeding.

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court jury convicted Williams in May of killing prominent Washington lawyers Jose E. Trias and Julie N. Gilbert in 1994 in their posh weekend home near Annapolis. Williams, whose first convictions and death sentence were overturned by the state's highest court in 1996, has chosen to be sentenced by a judge.

In brief opening remarks, State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee told Judge Pamela L. North that Williams, 35, of Arnold remains a threat, and that state law allows the death penalty for the double murder and robbery that stunned the Winchester on the Severn neighborhood and Washington legal circles.

The defense is arguing that Williams might not have acted alone. Emotionally scarred from being abused and neglected during his childhood, he should be shown mercy, defense lawyers maintain.

Weathersbee said yesterday that nobody else was implicated in the killings. "Anything beyond that is speculation," he said.

But assistant public defender Nancy M. Cohen said a huge gap exists between proving that the evidence puts Williams in the victims' home and believing he pulled the trigger. Only the killer, not an accomplice, could be put to death.

The defense might revive from the monthlong trial the allegation that a second set of footprints -- unidentified, outside the house and not near where police believe the intruder broke in -- could belong to the killer.

No relatives of the victims attended yesterday's proceeding. Weathersbee said Trias' elderly parents and Gilbert's brother oppose the death penalty on religious grounds.

Yesterday, the first five prosecution witnesses testified to Williams' infractions while jailed.

On Dec. 6, 1995, he got partway through an elaborate escape scheme at the Maryland Penitentiary. If not for a random fire drill, it might not have been discovered. Sgt. LaRuthe Elsezy testified that she repeatedly told Williams to leave for the fire drill. When he didn't budge from his bunk, she entered the cell and discovered a dummy.

Guards searched for him with flashlights after realizing that the lights in the activity building were not working.

"We noticed wires on the overhead lights were cut," said Jimmy Carr, a corrections officer.

Carr spotted Williams in the barber shop. "He was standing in the corner with coats over him like a coatrack. But I noticed the feet," Carr said.

At the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, where he was held before his first trial and after the conviction was overturned, routine shakedowns of Williams' cell turned up poles -- one 5 1/2 feet long -- made of rolled and tied paper, with a spoon at the end. Other items included bits of metal and a 6-inch piece of steel, guards testified. Inmates use the poles to pass small items from cell to cell.

The prosecution is expected to wrap up its case today. The defense, hoping to win a life sentence, will then begin presenting witnesses.

The hearing is expected to last most of the week.

Pub Date: 8/11/98

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