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Jury weighs death penalty for former soldier

May 23, 2014
The Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) - Jurors began deliberations in the sentencing-eligibility phase of the trial of Naeem Williams, who was convicted last month in the 2005 beating death of his 5-year-old daughter, Talia.

Lawyers made their final arguments Thursday, debating whether Williams' mental competence and intentions warrant the death penalty.

Prosecutors said Williams intended to inflict severe physical pain and suffering on his daughter, and that intent makes Williams eligible for the death penalty.

"His intent was clear," prosecuting attorney Steven Mellin said. "He intended to and did cause severe physical pain and suffering. He hit her so hard that even he couldn't cover up the resulting impact."

Williams' lawyer, Michael Burt, said his client's violent actions were intended to discipline his daughter for urinating on herself. Williams was disciplined with a belt by his own father, Burt said.

Mellin argued that Williams intended to do more than discipline his daughter, noting that at one point in the days leading up to her death Williams acknowledged that his daughter "smelt like death."

Burt also argued that Williams was mentally impaired. He had said Williams has an IQ score of 73.

"The cold reality of this case is that both the defense experts and the government experts found important deficits," Burt said.

But Mellin countered that Williams' success in his career showed that he is not intellectually disabled.

"He is simply using this claim as a way to not take responsibility for his violent acts," Mellin said.

Williams faces the death penalty even though Hawaii abolished capital punishment in 1957. Because the crime took place on military property, the case is in the federal justice system, which allows for the death penalty.



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