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Jury rejects death penalty in Williams murder case

The federal case was the first capital murder trial in state history

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 12:42 p.m. HST, Jun 27, 2014

A federal court jury in Honolulu rejected the death penalty on Friday for former Schofield Barracks soldier Naeem J. Williams, who instead will spend the rest of his life in prison for killing his 5-year-old daughter Talia in 2005.

The case was the first capital murder trial in the state of Hawaii.

The jury told U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright that it was unable to reach a unanimous decision on the death penalty, leaving life in prison without parole as the only sentencing option. He will be formally sentenced at a later date.

As Seabright read the decision, Williams stood with defense attorney John Philipsborn, who patted his client on the back.

Williams, dressed in a light blue shirt, dark pants and wearing thick black glasses, was relieved, Philipsborn said. "I think he was very grateful for the outcome and I'm not sure he expected it," the attorney said.

"We were concerned because of the length of the deliberations," Philipsborn said of the defense team.

Seabright polled the jurors who all confirmed that they were unable to agree unanimously on the death penalty.

Florence Nakakuni, the U.S. Attorney for Hawaii, said after hearing, "It's a split verdict but that means life without release for Mr. Williams and I think that is an appropriate sentence."

The decision was announced at a 9 a.m. hearing even though the jury reached their decision on Thursday afternoon. The jury, which had deliberated on the death penalty for seven days, sent a note to Seabright on Thursday that said the process had been "emotionally draining" and they wanted to delay the reading of the decision until Friday. 

This is the same jury that found Williams, 34, guilty on April 24 of two capital offenses. One is for killing Talia in their military family quarters at Wheeler Army Airfield on July 16, 2005, through child abuse. The other is for killing her after torturing her for months. 

After the guilty verdict, the jury heard weeks of additional testimony and arguments before finding Williams eligible for the death sentence. To find him eligible, jurors had to conclude that he acted with intent and that there was at least one aggravating factor.

Prosecutors argued that Williams intended to and did inflict serious physical pain and abuse on his daughter and that the crimes were made worse because of the cruel and heinous manner in which they were carried out. They also argued that the killing was made worse because the girl was particularly vulnerable due to her young age.

Talia Williams was 4 years old when she arrived in Hawaii to live with her father and stepmother, Delilah, in December 2004. By the time she died seven months later, she had experienced food deprivation and almost daily beatings, first with a plastic ruler, then a belt at the hands of her father and stepmother. The beatings continued with her father using his fists. 

Delilah Williams, who is serving 20 years for her role in the child's death, testified that she also stomped on Talia and lifted her up by the hair, sometimes pulling out clumps of it. 

After finding Naeem Williams eligible for the death penalty on May 23, the federal jury then listened to days of testimony on whether he deserved to be put to death. On June 12, they were given 35 pages of instructions and began deliberations.

Defense lawyers gave the jurors a list of 149 mitigating factors to weigh in favor of a life sentence for Williams. Prosecutors gave jurors seven aggravating factors to consider for the death penalty.

Before jurors voted on life or death, they were required to indicate on a special findings form whether the lawyers had proved each of the aggravating and mitigating factors.

Williams is the first person to stand trial in Hawaii for a death penalty offense since the territorial legislature abolished capital punishment in 1957. He was prosecuted under federal law because the killing occurred on a U.S. military installation.


Star-Advertiser reporters Nelson Daranciang, Susan Essoyan and Dan Nakaso contributed to this report.

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LMO wrote:
The jury had more compassion than Mr. Williams had for his daughter. He lucky for that.
on June 27,2014 | 09:47AM
1local wrote:
no justice for the victim as always. Didn't he punch and kick the child enough? Too much uncontrolled democrat breeding programs...
on June 27,2014 | 10:14AM
HanabataDays wrote:
Nothing will bring justice to a murdered child. Your troglodytic political aside certainly won't.
on June 27,2014 | 10:17AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Life without parole. Plenty justice. The guy going spend his days in a cage.
on June 27,2014 | 11:26AM
dontbelieveinmyths wrote:
At taxpayers cost. We suffer too. Remember too that sometimes life doesn't mean life. Somewhere along the line they'll give him a chance at parole. Look at Charles Manson. How did he become eligible to parole. He was once sentenced to death.
on June 27,2014 | 12:16PM
thanks4reading wrote:
The california capital punishment law for which manson was convicted was held to be unconstitutional resorting to an automatic life in prison. As a reminder, manson is still in prison. It is much less likely for this sentence to be overturned than a death sentence.
on June 27,2014 | 09:24PM
VikkiP wrote:
Life without parole, if he is serving in a Federal Prison it is a cake walk just ask Bernie Madoff!
on June 27,2014 | 02:48PM
zoomzoom65 wrote:
Jurors should be ashamed of themselves. Hope they have sleepless nights for not having courage to do the right thing, death penalty.
on June 27,2014 | 11:14AM
bully106 wrote:
the trial shouldn't have been held in Hawaii. it seems weird that residents of this state, which doesn't have the death penalty, could turn that around in their heads and sentence this man to death. it simply is not in our cultural DNA. (however, I would have voted to kill him quickly.)
on June 27,2014 | 11:43AM
ehrhornp wrote:
Better yet, the government should not have sought the death penalty.
on June 27,2014 | 11:47AM
rhone wrote:
too bad he hadn't been stationed somewhere in the deep South.
on June 27,2014 | 12:27PM
poipoo wrote:
or texas.
on June 27,2014 | 10:00PM
poipoo wrote:
shouldve done it in TX ... no wusses there.
on June 27,2014 | 09:59PM
SY808 wrote:
Sentencing someone to death it not easy and would probably eat at their conscience the rest of their lives, even if justified! In the end, life in prison is probably the harsher punishment anyways!
on June 27,2014 | 10:11AM
808zone wrote:
I agree with SY808. It's easy to come to a conclusion when you're not the one responsible for making it. Life in prision without the possibility for parole is very harsh and he will likely get "extra" punishment for killing a child. The one bad side to life inprision is that the taxpayers will be footing the bill.
on June 27,2014 | 10:27AM
ehrhornp wrote:
Killing a prisoner is not cheap. Death penalty is probable more expensive. Drugs are not even easily available today.
on June 27,2014 | 10:47AM
dontbelieveinmyths wrote:
That's because of liberals like you. Nothing wrong with liberalism, but you are to the left of that.
on June 27,2014 | 12:18PM
krusha wrote:
Be careful of what you wish for. Just look at China where people get put to death for just stealing. Many people have been wrongly accused before too and put to death. Once they are dead, then there's no going back if they are found innocent later.
on June 27,2014 | 01:22PM
VikkiP wrote:
Who cares about China?
on June 27,2014 | 03:04PM
SueH wrote:
Put to death for stealing in China, krusha??? Well it's pretty effective, isn't it? Those people never steal again.
on June 27,2014 | 08:19PM
ehrhornp wrote:
Sure beats being a phony conservative. Wonder if you are a phony christian too. Often go hand in hand. Nothing wrong with conservatism. Unfortunately phony conservatism is not conservatism.
on June 27,2014 | 03:28PM
VikkiP wrote:
As I stated earlier who cares about China but one thing I can say about them they use a bullet and charge the family (the prisoner) for that bullet.
on June 27,2014 | 03:33PM
SueH wrote:
I'll be happy to supply a bullet for free. No cost to the taxpayers at all.
on June 27,2014 | 08:21PM
SueH wrote:
Yes, life in prison is a harsher punishment than death: harsher on hard working, honest taxpayers who must now support this sorry arse in prison for the rest of his life.
on June 27,2014 | 10:27AM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
I agree 100%. The members of this jury deserve some time off after performing their civic duty.
on June 27,2014 | 10:41AM
SueH wrote:
As an honest, hard working taxpayer, I get to see this "mentally challenged", unproductive derelict eat, sleep, and sh-t on my dime for the rest of his useless life. I wonder how long it will take his slime-ball lawyers to appeal his sentence and conviction, wasting more taxpayers dollars?? When does his daughter get to appeal her fate? This guy should be taken out like the trash.
on June 27,2014 | 08:26PM
W_Williams wrote:
I feel for the jury. What a daunting task they had before them. We live in a state that does not have the death penalty, so how can we ask our peers to choose death as a punishment? I know first hand the pain of losing a loved one by the hand of another, yet I don't believe that the death of the killer would ever relieve my pain.
on June 27,2014 | 10:44AM
ehrhornp wrote:
The state has no business asking for the death penalty. Hawaii does not have the death penalty and for the feds to come in here seeking to kill someone just shows they have no respect for state rights. In the past this was respected. For shame Obama.
on June 27,2014 | 10:44AM
MickJagger wrote:
Not Obama; it's the Bush administration and former AG Alberto Gonzales as the murder happened in 2005: http://bigstory.ap.org/article/testimony-underway-hawaii-death-penalty-case
on June 27,2014 | 11:51AM
NITRO08 wrote:
You're blaming Obama wake up Obama had nothing to do with this he killed his daughter on federal land it had nothing to do with state law.
on June 27,2014 | 11:55AM
Nultech wrote:
Maybe you need to do some legal research. Obama has no input into this trial whatsoever. You probably would blame him for a rainy day. Why is it that GOP is now synonymous with stupid?
on June 27,2014 | 11:57AM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
Good thing it was the Federal gov't doing the asking then, eh?
on June 27,2014 | 02:10PM
tutulois wrote:
I'm glad for this decision. Horrific crimes like this make me wonder if the death penalty isn't the right thing. But then I think it's wrong for the state to kill, and wrong for the medical professionals to participate in the killing. The guilty verdict is clear in this case, but there have been too many death row inmates railroaded through the justice system, only to be exonerated by DNA evidence.
on June 27,2014 | 10:47AM
fdez wrote:
This verdict serves the prosecutors right. We are a jurisdiction which has rejected the death penalty and the US Attorney's office should not be bringing death penalty trials to Hawaii. Besides, seaking the death penalty when an admittedly equally guilty codefendant was let off with 20 years in return for cooperation seems morally wrong to me.
on June 27,2014 | 10:58AM
ehrhornp wrote:
I agree 100%
on June 27,2014 | 11:45AM
d_bullfighter wrote:
Not morally wrong to me. If anything both should have rec'd death sentences.
on June 27,2014 | 11:56AM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
Well let's see...if his wife hadn't testified against him, would there have been any other witnesses? Would he have been convicted? Throwing a smaller fish back in order to bag the big one (vs. losing both) seems like a sound strategy.
on June 27,2014 | 02:13PM
Skyler wrote:
He deserves the death penalty; hopefully he'll get it in prison.
on June 27,2014 | 10:58AM
midnightfairy wrote:
I hope they both endure daily beat downs in prison! Both of them deserve no less. Poor baby didn't have anyone protecting her and now she is out of their reach.
on June 27,2014 | 11:02AM
Iuki wrote:
What did the authorities expect? We don't executive people--the government doesn't--in Hawaii. The U.S. Army should have handled his punishment. He was a military person killing his own child on a military base.
on June 27,2014 | 11:18AM
golfgang wrote:
Totally agree ~ when you commit a crime on a military base, you go to military court. This torture/murder of a child occurred on a MILITARY BASE, FEDERAL, by a Military (he and his family were not even born/raised in Hawaii) and yet WE in Hawaii have to make the judgment, using our people, wasted time, and money, and now what, to house him, feed him, give him medical, psychological assistance; and probably conjugal visits and he gets to be a 'father' to his other child... So the Military Feds forced this on us, so people should not be surprised at the decision or expect a different outcome ~ predicted from the start. "Crime pays" certainly is the message as we continue to reward bad behavior, but expect different results ~ insanity at it's best.
on June 27,2014 | 12:36PM
Kalaheo1 wrote:
These jurors made the best decision they could.

I thank them for their service and all the time they spent away from their homes, families, and jobs deliberating this awful case.

I expect Naeem J. Williams will have a long and unpleasant time in prison.

on June 27,2014 | 11:19AM
GooglyMoogly wrote:
Well said.
on June 27,2014 | 02:14PM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Must have been a tough decision for the jurors.
on June 27,2014 | 11:27AM
SueH wrote:
I don't see why so many people think it was a tough decision for the jurors. If any of them had a spine, it would have taken ten minutes to reach the right decision.
on June 27,2014 | 08:31PM
Nultech wrote:
Cost of Life in prison vs execution: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/29552692/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/t/execute-or-not-question-cost/#.U63pgbG9b0Q
on June 27,2014 | 12:01PM
fiveo wrote:
I think the jury reached the right verdict. His wife was just as guilty but she made a plea deal. Both were deserving of the death penalty given their actions in this sad and tragic case. So if the wife was not subject to the death penalty, I do not feel it would be just to impose a death sentence on the defendant. By the way, I am personally in favor of the death penalty and would like to see it became law here in Hawaii. Also favor hanging as the best form of execution. It is quick and merciful way to execute and a good manila rope will last for years. Execution by electric chair or poison gas is rather barbaric. Execution by lethal injection as done in the US is too complicated and difficult to perform well as a recent botched execution showed. Also the way they do it requires trained medical personal and the proper meds. To properly hang someone is somewhat of a science and requires knowing the weight of the person and measuring length of the drop otherwise the person's head could be torn off.
on June 27,2014 | 12:37PM
bully106 wrote:
i choose a firing squad.
on June 27,2014 | 03:11PM
iwanaknow wrote:
the stepmother should have been sent to jail for life too...............she was as much involved as her husband
on June 27,2014 | 01:42PM
kailua000 wrote:
the wife got away with murder. 20 years is not enough.I hope she gets what she deserves while in jail.
on June 27,2014 | 02:19PM
GeoDiva wrote:
Let's hope that prison justice does it's part. Fellow inmates don't like child killers!
on June 27,2014 | 02:34PM
VikkiP wrote:
You go GeoDiva!
on June 27,2014 | 03:06PM
jmarie wrote:
Once again Hawaii citizens show their bleeding heart liberalism. No justice for that little girl!
on June 27,2014 | 04:30PM
ResponsibleCitizen wrote:
Again the liberal infestation of hawaii has denied justice and accountabillty for the actions of a criminal.... sad this story... wash, rinse, repeat.
on June 27,2014 | 05:51PM
tranquilseas4ever wrote:
Incompetent, soft-in-the-head, wussy Jury!! Would've been the right verdict if this horror had happened to their OWN daughter. "All Murderers - come to Hawaii ! You can maim, torture & kill little children and get away with it ! And we taxpayers will even pay for your room & board for your lifetime ! " (Those cockamamie JURORS should be the ones to have to pay the cost of Williams' lifetime prison stay!!)
on June 27,2014 | 05:59PM
Haoulie wrote:
Vengence is mine sayth the Lord but if this lowlife goes into population of any prison someone will teach him to keep his hands off little girls.....his only option will be to be caged like a zoo animal. Bread and water would suffice.....
on June 27,2014 | 06:37PM
SueH wrote:
"Vengence is mine sayth the Lord" but JUSTICE is up to the jury, and they failed MISERABLY.
on June 27,2014 | 08:57PM
toby wrote:
Lucky you live in Hawaii the most liberal state you baby killer. You had no problem killing your own daughter but were crapping in your pants with the possibility of your own death. What a piece of garbage.
on June 27,2014 | 09:03PM
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