Friday, April 25
HONOLULU (AP) — A federal jury on Thursday convicted a former Hawaii soldier of murder in the beating death of his 5-year-old daughter, a capital offense in a state that doesn't have the death penalty.
Jurors in Honolulu will now be asked to decide during a penalty phase whether to sentence Naeem Williams to death for killing Talia Williams.
Hawaii abolished capital punishment in 1957. But Williams still faces a possible death sentence because the crime occurred on military property, and he is being tried in the federal system.
The jury found Williams guilty of all five counts: murder, aiding murder, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and making false statements.
The victim's biological mother, Tarshia Williams, said she was happy with the verdict.
"She can rest now that her killer is guilty of what he did to her," said Tarshia Williams, who is not married to the defendant but has the same last name because they are distant relatives. "Now my daughter can rest in peace despite all the pain she went through."
When asked whether Naeem Williams should be put to death, she paused, gathered herself and said, "Whatever they decide."
The trial's sentencing phase starts Tuesday.
Naeem Williams' lawyers left the courthouse without commenting. They had argued in his defense that while Naeem Williams beat Talia, it was unclear whether he caused her July 2005 death.
Florence Nakakuni, a U.S. attorney in Hawaii, said prosecutors won't be able to comment until after sentencing.
The Bureau of Prisons said Williams would serve any sentence outside Hawaii.
The trial lasted nearly two months and was filled with graphic testimony about abuses suffered by the child at the hands of her father and stepmother.
Naeem Williams and his wife, Delilah Williams, have acknowledged beating, confining and restraining the girl in the seven months before her death.
Delilah Williams also is charged with murder. She testified for the prosecution as part of a plea deal that calls for a 20-year prison term, but she has not yet been sentenced. She told jurors she once stomped Talia until she felt a bone crack.
Naeem Williams testified earlier this month that he beat his daughter often because of her bathroom accidents and because he was taking out his marital frustrations on the child.
He told the jury of seven men and five women that the day Talia died, he had punched her repeatedly after a night of drinking. He struck her so hard in the back that she hit her head on the floor and appeared to have a seizure, he said.
Tarshia Williams, who sat through the entire trial in the courtroom, said she attended every day because her daughter was alone when she went through the abuse.
"I did it for her," she said.
Hawaii's history with capital punishment predates statehood. There have been 49 executions in Hawaii, the first in 1856 and the last recorded in 1944, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
The last time the federal death penalty was approved for a Hawaii case was for a drug-related murder. However, the defendant took a plea deal that gave him a life sentence, then died of an apparent suicide about three months later.
Sam Eifling can be reached at http://twitter.com/sameifling .