Confession in Texas DA Killings
Many doubts about the brutal killing of three Texans, including two local district attorneys, were removed this week as Kim Williams allegedly confessed to the murders on Wednesday. Kim Williams is the wife of former Justice of the Peace Eric Williams, who was arrested and held in custody earlier this month on charges of sending an anonymous threat via email.
Now with Kim Williams and Eric Williams in custody, prosecutors can begin to build a case for capital murder against the couple for the three victims.
Authorities with the Kaufman County Sheriff's Dept. confirmed that Kim Williams was being held on $10 million bail for the three murders committed over the last three months.
Kim Williams has indicated that she and her husband planned and carried out the murders of District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife Cynthia as well as the killing of top prosecutor Mark Hasse, The Dallas Morning News reports.
Although it appears Kim is currently cooperating with the police, both she and her husband may still face the death penalty for their crimes. The killings of these public officials has sparked a manhunt for the perpetrators, with early allegations that a white supremacist group was central in the murders.
In Texas, capital murder is applied in any murder case in which the perpetrator can receive the death sentence for committing a murder that is especially heinous in the eyes of the law. When multiple murders have been committed, the capital murder charge is usually applied.
Both Kim Williams and her husband may face the death penalty for the killing of these three Kaufman County residents. If brought to trial and found guilty of the murders, jurors will also have to answer three interrogatories in order to find that the death penalty is appropriate.
1) Is there is a probability the defendant would commit criminal acts of violence which would constitute continuing threat to society?
Jurors must answer unanimously "yes" to this question for Kim or Eric Williams to receive the death penalty.
2) Did the defendant actually cause the death of the deceased or did not
actually cause the death of the deceased but intended to kill the deceased or another or anticipated that a human life would be taken?
Jurors must also answer this unanimously "yes" for the defendants to receive the death penalty.
3) Taking into consideration the circumstances, the defendant's character, and the personal moral culpability of the defendant, are there sufficient mitigating circumstances to impose life in prison rather than the death penalty?
The penalty phase of any trial for the defendants will present evidence of their moral character, what lead up to the murders, and whether either of them accepts responsibility and has remorse for their actions.
If a jury decides that the evidence does not mitigate the Williams' crimes, they must vote "no" unanimously in order to impose the death penalty.
Regardless of the ultimate events of the Williams' capital murder trials, at this time, Kim Williams' confession brings the victims and their families slightly closer to seeing justice for their losses.
Update, 12:13 PST, April 18, 2013: Eric Williams has now also been charged in the killings of District Attorney Mike McLelland, his wife Cynthia, and prosecutor Mark Hasse, according to a report by Reuters.
- Police investigating DA murder make arrest over 'terroristic threat' (The Guardian)
- What Are 'Terroristic Threats'? (FindLaw's Blotter)
- First Degree Murder Overview (FindLaw)
- First Degree Murder Penalties and Sentencing (FindLaw)