Jury reaches verdict in Hawaii death penalty case

By Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, Associated Press | Posted - Jun. 26, 2014 at 9:01 p.m.

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HONOLULU (AP) — Jurors decided Thursday whether a former soldier convicted of killing his 5-year-old daughter will be executed or sentenced to life in prison, but they asked the judge to delay reading the verdict because some jurors feel emotionally drained.

The jury sent a note to U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright in Honolulu telling him they reached a verdict Thursday afternoon but that they would like to return to court Friday morning to read it.

Seabright brought the jury's forewoman into the courtroom and explained that he would accept the verdict Thursday, seal it in an envelope and excuse the jury for the day. He said he wouldn't look at it until the morning, when he'll make sure the verdict form is filled out properly, and then it will be read.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers objected to delaying the reading. They declined to comment outside of court on how the verdict was being handled.

Naeem Williams' death penalty trial is the first in the history of Hawaii's statehood.

In April, the same 12 jurors found Williams guilty of capital murder in his daughter Talia's 2005 beating death. He said he beat the child often to discipline her for bathroom accidents.

Hawaii's territorial government abolished capital punishment in 1957. But because his crimes took place in military housing, Williams was tried in the federal justice system, which allows the death penalty.

Seabright is expected to impose the sentence that the jury agreed upon. A decision to sentence him to either death or life in prison must be unanimous, but they also have the option of saying they can't agree, which would mean Williams will be sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.

The jury ended deliberations after about seven full days of considering Williams' sentence from about 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They've had every Monday off and had some breaks spanning several days because of court scheduling issues.

The defense filed a motion earlier this week arguing for a mistrial because of the length of time jurors were taking to reach a decision. Seabright declined that motion.

Williams' defense team argued factors such as his two other children, his low IQ, and physical abuse he suffered from his stepfather were reasons to spare his life.

The prosecution said the killing was heinous enough to warrant the death penalty because of circumstances including Talia's age and vulnerability.

Williams and Talia's stepmother, Delilah Williams, testified during the guilt phase of the trial that they beat the girl almost daily with belts and their hands during the seven months she lived with them in Hawaii.

During proceedings leading up to the sentencing deliberations, Williams' family, including his 9-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son, testified that they love him and that his life has value. Williams read a statement to jurors apologizing for killing Talia and asking them to let him live.

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Jennifer Sinco Kelleher


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