Killer's troubled youth tops sentencing hearing Mulling death penalty, judge told Williams beaten, abandoned

August 13, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A social worker for Scotland E. Williams testified yesterday that the convicted killer fighting to avoid the death penalty suffered a troubled childhood -- beaten, emotionally abandoned and frequently left by his mother to care for his younger brother and sister.

That version of Williams' family history came from S. Sandy Straub, social worker for the defense. She told Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Pamela L. North that Williams' mother disciplined her children routinely with a broomstick, extension cords or a flagpole. The background, much of it contested by prosecutors, is among mitigating factors North may consider in sentencing Williams.

A jury convicted Williams in May of the 1994 murders of prominent Washington lawyers Jose E. Trias and Julie N. Gilbert in their weekend home outside Annapolis, and now it is up to North to decide whether he should spend his life in prison or be sentenced to die.

Williams, 35, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995, but the Court of Appeals overturned that a year later.

Much of the third day of the sentencing hearing was absorbed by arguments between the defense and prosecution over whether the judge should allow a host of documents as evidence. The sniping reached a point where North admonished both sides to behave in a professional way.

Straub was the only witness to testify yesterday. Williams will not testify.

Straub described a family that had little warmth.

Williams' mother, Rosezelma Williams, was single when he was born. When he was about 9 months old, she married, largely to provide a home for him and to be socially acceptable.

Calvin Williams claimed paternity of the baby, though he was not the father. Williams found out when he was 11, after a brawl between his parents.

Rosezelma, who hated being a stay-at-home parent, announced she was joining the Army, and Calvin left. Rosezelma sent the family dog to be killed at the pound, cut her daughter's hair because Calvin liked it long and told a devastated Scotland that Calvin was not really his father.

"Rosezelma Williams refused to answer any of his questions about his biological father," Straub said.

After that, Straub said, Williams became emotionally withdrawn and increasingly depressed. For all three children, beatings worsened and they often were left alone, with little food.

Challenged by prosecution

Such information about Williams' life did not emerge during the 1995 trial.

But chunks of it were challenged by Assistant State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. She said that what Deidre Williamson, the defendant's sister, testified at the first trial "contradicts what is being said today."

Last year she told the state's presentence investigator that there were no serious problems with the children's upbringing.

Under cross-examination, Straub said she did not know how many times Scotland and his siblings were beaten, but it went on weekly or biweekly for years.

Nevertheless, she found no official or family reports of child abuse. But she said that inflicting injuries on the children meets the legal definition of child abuse, whether or not it is reported.

He returned to mother's home

Leitess noted that while Rosezelma Williams got a court order to bar the defendant's brother, Clayton, from coming near her, Scotland Williams returned to his mother's home in 1992 when he left the Army, and was living with her at the time of the murders.

Neither relatives of Williams nor the victims have attended the sentencing, though a close friend of Gilbert and Trias has sat in the courtroom, sometimes tearfully.

North said she plans to take today to review documents and transcripts in the case.

Testimony is expected to resume tomorrow, though North has not indicated whether she will sentence Williams immediately.

Pub Date: 8/13/98

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