Williams sentencing hearing ends Decision coming Friday on life without parole or death for murders

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

Defense lawyers for Scotland E. Williams pleaded yesterday with an Anne Arundel County Circuit judge to sentence the convicted murderer to life in prison without parole, because too many questions about his crime remain unanswered to justify a death sentence.

But prosecutors countered that the Arnold man is dangerous and conniving, and that there is no reason to think that anyone else robbed and fatally shot two high-powered Washington lawyers in 1994 in their weekend home outside Annapolis.

The 3 1/2 hours of closing arguments before Judge Pamela L. North ended a tense weeklong hearing to determine Williams' fate. North said she will issue her decision Friday morning. Williams, 35, was convicted in May of the execution-style murders of tax lawyers Jose E. Trias and Julie N. Gilbert. The Court of Appeals overturned his 1995 conviction and death sentence.

In contrast to his first sentencing hearing -- when Williams announced that he thought he should be sentenced to die -- he kept silent yesterday.

Also, North did not need to address a sensitive question of whether prosecutors repeated testimony to a Baltimore felon and informant before taking his statement this week.

Defense lawyers had alleged that prosecutors violated court rules, so North directed that the informant be brought in so she could find out what he had been told. Prosecutors instead decided not to use the man, or his statement to police, to rebut defense testimony that he saw someone other than Williams with the victims' car.

"This is a methodical killing for money," said Assistant State's Attorney Anne Colt Leitess.

She listed 17 reasons she said showed Williams acted alone -- crucial because only the person who pulled the trigger can be put to death.

Among her reasons, she said, were that only Williams benefited from the crime, that the shoe prints and DNA inside the house appeared to match Williams', that he had "big plans" on a list in his briefcase but no money and that when arrested moments after his photo appeared on television, he was trying to get rid of items tying him to the crime. He tried to escape from the Maryland Penitentiary, and guards in the Anne Arundel jail repeatedly found metal objects in his cell.

Bank photographs of Williams using the victims' automated teller cards, starting a day after the killing, to withdraw $3,000 pointed police his way.

But Assistant Public Defender Nancy M. Cohen contended that no evidence showed Williams was the killer and that a killer careful not to disturb the victims' home and leave a pristine crime scene would not logically be the same person "sticking his face in front of the camera" at a bank.

"The fact that he had the victims' PIN [personal identification] numbers does not mean he shot those people," she said.

She raised several mitigating factors -- an abusive childhood, untreated depression and the heavy responsibility of practically running a household and taking care of his younger brother and sister when he was about 11.

The victims' families have objected to the death penalty.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee countered that many defense arguments, such as that Maryland Penitentiary Warden Eugene M. Nuth said Williams seemed like a "nice guy," were irrelevant.

"Maybe as far as criminals go, he is," Weathersbee speculated.

Pub Date: 8/15/98

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