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Jurors weighing death penalty for ex-soldier

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 03:36 p.m. HST, Apr 29, 2014

Now that a former Hawaii-based soldier has been convicted of murder in the 2005 killing of his 5-year-old daughter, his defense team is trying to keep him from being sentenced to death by arguing that he suffers from a low level of intelligence.

The sentencing-eligibility phase began Tuesday for Naeem Williams in the Honolulu federal courtroom where jurors convicted him last week of murder in his daughter Talia's beating death. The phase began with opening statements from the prosecution and the defense.

If jurors don't agree that he can be sentenced to death, he will receive a life sentence without possibility for release.

Although Hawaii abolished capital punishment in 1957, Williams faces the death penalty because it's a federal case. The fatal beating occurred on military property, allowing him to be tried in the federal justice system.

Defense attorney Michael Burt told jurors they will hear from several mental health experts who have evaluated Williams' intelligence. Williams failed his first military aptitude test and, with help, later achieved the minimum score to get into the Army, Burt said.

Williams has an IQ score of 73, putting him in the fourth percentile and has a mental age of a 7- to 9-year-old, Burt said.

"The issue of punishment is now before you," Burt said. "The question in this phase is no longer, 'Is Mr. Williams responsible.' "

The first witness, psychiatrist Pablo Stewart, testified that his opinion is that Williams suffers from intellectual impairment. The doctor said that during the time Talia lived with Williams in Hawaii, the former soldier suffered from a low IQ and functional brain impairment, made worse by alcohol abuse.

Prosecutors said that during this phase, they will rely on evidence presented during the trial that resulted in Williams' conviction.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren Ching's opening statement Tuesday echoed the one he delivered at the beginning of the trial, where he described months of abuse Williams inflicted on the girl before delivering a fatal blow that was so hard it left knuckle imprints on her chest.

"This blow was so hard Talia fell back and hit her head on the unforgiving concrete floor of her two-story prison," Ching said. "Talia died a terrible death, but her death ended an even more horrific life."

Williams testified that he and Talia's stepmother, Delilah Williams, beat Talia almost daily, kept her home alone and didn't feed her for days at a time.

Ching said the "frequency, severity and escalation" of the beatings show Williams' intent. The prosecution argues the death penalty is warranted, partly because of the victim's vulnerability.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright sustained Ching's objection when Burt started to tell jurors about how historic it would be for someone to receive the death penalty in Hawaii.

Hawaii's last recorded execution was in 1944.

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2NDC wrote:
A "low level of intelligence" does not excuse the fact that he beat his child to death. I see animals at the zoo that are presumed to be less intelligent than your average human being that know very well that if you beat on another creature, they're bound to be injured or die. Dude needs to be locked up and housed in general population for the rest of his life. I'm sure the other inmates will TCOB and give him what he has coming.
on April 29,2014 | 11:58AM
gmejk wrote:
If the death penalty is on the books as being available as a punishment this convicted criminal deserves consideration for it. His crime was that heinous.
on April 29,2014 | 12:51PM
Nevadan wrote:
Both the father and the step-mother need to die.
on April 29,2014 | 01:21PM
lookup wrote:
has a mental age of a 7- or 9-year-old, Burt said. The US Army was allowing a person with the IQ of a young child serve as a soldier? The Army did not follow up with the complaints made of abuse on base? Well...I think that after soldier daddy is sentenced the Army should be next. How could they have let this happen?
on April 29,2014 | 02:21PM
hikine wrote:
Agree. The Army is recruiting guys with 7 or 9 year old mentality? What is the Army coming to? Are they that desperate to recruit?! If he shot at people and kills does this defense hold up? The Army giving a 7 or 9 year old a weapon of mass destruction is horrifying. Even children at that age knows what's right and wrong. Life sentence in hard labor would be more feasible paid for by the Army to make him suffer for what he did. The step-mother should also be jailed. The Army itself should also be held responsible since they didn't do enough to protect the child from abuse!
on April 29,2014 | 02:43PM
GeoDiva wrote:
Also, how could he have gotten custody of the child in the first place if his mental age was 7-9 years old? I'm all for the death penalty.
on April 29,2014 | 04:08PM
scooters wrote:
Firing squad for this SOB and include his evil wife too!
on April 29,2014 | 04:11PM
Kumukai14 wrote:
This brothah needs the death penalty. If the jury can't figure it out, then how sad are they. This monster does not deserve to live in a prison, 3 meals a day, and breathing...on whose tax money to keep him there. Nope not mine.
on April 29,2014 | 04:27PM
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