Jury weighs death penalty for former HI soldier

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Associated Press

Posted on May 22, 2014 at 8:35 PM

Updated Thursday, May 22 at 8:36 PM

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.

"He always said: 'I did not want to inflict extreme pain on Talia. All I wanted to do is to ... stop her from using the bathroom on herself,' " 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."

"He repeatedly and meticulously duct-taped his daughter to the bed post and beat her," Mellin said. "He hit her so many times with the belt or fist he lost count."

Burt also argued that Williams was mentally impaired. During several weeks of sentencing hearings, defense lawyers brought in experts to testify about Williams' low IQ in an attempt to show that his low level of intelligence makes him ineligible for a death sentence.

Burt had previously told the jury that Williams initially failed a military aptitude test and later achieved the minimum score to join the Army. He had said Williams has an IQ score of 73, and had the mental age of a 7- to 9-year-old.

"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. Williams' Army supervisor said he was in the top 10 percent of all people he supervised, Mellin said.

"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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