Texas DA Killer Denied New Trial, Returns To Death Row

March 3, 2015
By David Lee
KAUFMAN, Texas (CN) – A Texas judge Monday sent a former justice of the peace back to death row after denying his request for a new trial for the murder of a district attorney’s wife.
Visiting Lamar County District Judge Webb Biard rejected Eric Williams’ motion for a new trial, days after hearing expert witness testimony on Williams’ claim that his “broken brain” was not tested until after his conviction.
Williams, 47, of Kaufman, was sentenced to die in December for the capital murder of Cynthia McClelland, the wife of former Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McClelland.
The McClellands were gunned down in their Forney home on March 28, 2013, two months after Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was shot to death in a Kaufman County Courthouse parking lot by a masked gunman .
Prosecutors said during the jury trial in Rockwall County that Williams plotted to killed McLelland and Hasse after they prosecuted him in 2012 for stealing three county computer monitors. That conviction cost Williams his job and his law license.
Prosecutors said Cynthia McClelland was not targeted – that Williams saw her killing as “collateral damage.”
The defense’s expert witnesses testified that brain scans showed brain damage, though the prosecution’s expert witnesses testified there was “nothing wrong with him” on his first evaluation.
Williams’ attorneys also claimed that Dallas County Judge Mike Snipes was biased during the trial, using “facial expressions” and “extrajudicial” behavior against their client.
Snipes harshly denounced Williams after sentencing, comparing him to the “vigilante” that Charles Bronson portrayed in the “Death Wish” movies, and to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
Williams’ attorneys said Snipes denied funding the brain tests, then allowed them after the trial had begun, and denied their request to delay the trial pending outcome of the tests.
Special prosecutor Bill Wirskye told ABC affiliate WFAA that the defense had plenty of time to get the brain scans done before trial, and that one of their own medical experts told them months earlier they should have them performed.
“The only thing wrong with Eric Williams is he’s a psychopath,” Wirskye said Monday. “Something is wrong, but it’s wrong with his mind and heart. His heart is dark and evil.”

From Courthouse News.

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Condemned Texas DA Killer, Former Judge Asks For New Trial Over “Damaged Brain”

February 27, 2015
By David Lee
KAUFMAN, Texas (CN) – The Texas justice of the peace condemned to death for murdering a district attorney’s wife deserves a new trial because the judge was biased and refused to allow tests of his “broken brain,” his attorneys claimed in court Thursday.
Eric Williams, 47, of Kaufman, was sentenced to die for the capital murder of Cynthia McClelland, the wife of former Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McClelland. The McClellands were gunned down in their Forney home on March 28, 2013, two months after Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was shot to death in a Kaufman County Courthouse parking lot by a masked gunman.
Prosecutors said during the jury trial in Rockwall County that Williams plotted to killed McLelland and Hasse after they prosecuted him in 2012 for stealing three county computer monitors. That conviction cost Williams his job and his law license.
Prosecutors said Cynthia McClelland was not targeted, Williams saw her killing as “collateral damage.” On Dec. 17, 2014 the jury sentenced Williams to death.
Williams’ attorneys filed a motion for new trial in January after visiting Lamar County District Judge Webb Biard granted their post-conviction request for brain scans.
Biard had replaced visiting Dallas County Judge Mike Snipes, who retired from the bench immediately after the trial.
Williams’ attorneys contend Snipes was biased, and used “facial expressions, body language, choice of language, and extrajudicial and on-camera behavior” against their client .
Snipes also harshly denounced Williams after sentencing, comparing him to the “vigilante” that Charles Bronson portrayed in the “Death Wish” movies, and to serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
Williams’ attorneys say Snipes denied funding the brain tests, then allowed them after the trial had begun, and denied their request to delay the trial pending outcome of the tests.
Defense attorney John Wright told Biard that had they been allowed, Williams’ attorneys “would have developed a more persuasive mitigating case based on mental health.”
He said the unavailability of the medical evidence at trial “prejudiced the substantial rights” of Williams.
Testifying for the defense, neuroradiologist Dr. William Orrison said the brain scans show that Williams has brain damage.
Dr. Steven Yount testified for the defense that Williams’ diabetes “was out of control” and that Williams told him he did not commit the murders.
Special prosecutor Bill Wirsky disagreed, telling the judge that doctors found “nothing wrong with him” on his first evaluation.
Testifying for the prosecution, Dr. Tomas Uribe said “there is nothing wrong” with Williams’ brain.
“I do not think he has any significant brain injury,” Uribe testified. “I can assure you.”
Dressed in a striped gray and black prison jumpsuit, Williams attended the Thursday hearing for only a few minutes before asking to be returned to the Kaufman County Jail.

From Courthouse News.

Fmr. Kaufman County JP Moves for New Trial, Claims Brain Damage Mitigates Death Sentence

January 28, 2015
By David Lee
KAUFMAN, Texas (CN) – The Texas justice of the peace convicted of murdering a district attorney’s wife demanded a new trial, claiming brain scans show his “brain is broken,” which should mitigate his death sentence.
Eric Williams, 47, of Kaufman, was sentenced to die on Dec. 17, 2014 for the capital murder of Cynthia McClelland, the wife of former Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McClelland.
The McClellands were gunned down in their Forney home on March 28, 2013, two months after Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was shot to death in a Kaufman County courthouse parking lot by a masked gunman.
Prosecutors said during the jury trial in Rockwall County that Williams plotted to killed McLelland and Hasse after they prosecuted him in 2012 for stealing three county computer monitors. That conviction resulted in the loss of Williams’s job and his disbarment.
A Kaufman County judge granted Williams’ attorneys request for brain scans, to be performed on Dec. 30. The attorneys argued that visiting Dallas County Judge Mike Snipes refused to extend the two-week-long punishment phase of Williams’s trial to allow for the scans and expert testimony indicating brain damage.
Medical testing was performed on Williams on Jan. 8.
“The results of this new testing reports probable prior brain injury which is newly discovered evidence that may have produced a sentence less than death,” the Jan. 16 motion for new trial states. “The unavailability of this evidence through the actions of the trial judge prejudiced the substantial rights of Eric Lyle Williams.”
Williams’s attorneys say they learned the results of the brain scans only four days before the Jan. 16 court-imposed deadline to seek a new trial. They say Judge Snipes denied funding for the tests before Williams’s trial, but “reversed his position after the merits trial had begun.”
The motion cites the findings of Dr. William Orrison Jr., who concluded that Williams showed brain injuries with prior head trauma.
“Eric’s left frontal cortex is the seat of judgment, decision-making, etc. The damage is at the interface between gray and white matter,” the motion states. “This suggests brain damage causing Eric to have poor executive function that is supposed to regulate Eric’s unregulated emotions coming from his shrunken and damaged hippocampus. The frontal executive system of Eric’s brain has impaired communication with his more primitive limbic system, generally causing likely difficulties in regulation of behavior, emotion, and the ability to communicate feedback regarding his actions to the emotional centers of his brain further diminishing his ability to regulate his emotions and prevent his emotional system from over-riding the rational aspect of his reasoning and moral judgment.”
The motion also cites loss of connecting fibers in Williams’s corpus callosum.
“This may create schizophrenic symptoms, as a result,” the motion states. “Eric may misperceive things out in the world. A juror might find this to reduce moral blameworthiness.”
Williams’ attorneys said they would have presented a “robust” defense of their client at trial “grounded on brain damage likely flowing from chronic and uncontrolled diabetes” if Snipes had funded the brain scans sooner.
The attorneys accuse Snipes of bias against Williams, of engaging in “facial expressions, body language, choice of language, and extrajudicial and on-camera behavior” against him.
Snipes had harsh words for Williams at sentencing, comparing him to Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer.
“You made yourself out to be some kind of Charles Bronson, a vigilante,” Snipes said. “At the end of the day, you murdered a little old lady.”
Snipes retired from the bench after Williams’s trial. Visiting Lamar County District Judge Webb Biard is scheduled to hear arguments on the motion on Feb. 24.
Special prosecutor Toby Shook told the Dallas Morning News he will be ready for the hearing.
“We will retain experts of our own that can shed light on this issue,” he said Tues

From Courthouse News.

Fmr. Texas Justice of the Peace Fights Death Sentence, Moves For New Trial

January 8, 2015
By David Lee
KAUFMAN, Texas (CN) – The Texas justice of the peace sentenced to death for murdering a district attorney’s wife seeks a new trial, claiming tests would show that brain damage from diabetes altered his judgment when he killed her.
Eric Williams, 47, of Kaufman, was sentenced to death on Dec. 17 for the capital murder of Cynthia McClelland, the wife of former Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McClelland.
The McClellands were gunned down in their Forney home on March 28, 2013, two months after Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was shot to death in a Kaufman County courthouse parking lot by a masked gunman.
Prosecutors said during the jury trial in Rockwall County that Williams plotted to killed McLelland and Hasse after they prosecuted him in 2012 for stealing three county computer monitors. That conviction resulted in the loss of Williams’s job and his disbarment.
A Kaufman County judge granted a transport order and bench warrant for Williams on Dec. 30, according to InForney.com, an online news site covering Kaufman County and the city of Forney.
Williams argued in the filings that visiting Dallas County Judge Mike Snipes refused to continue the two-week-long punishment phase of his trial to allow brain scans to be performed and expert testimony to be gathered that would have revealed the brain damage.
Snipes had granted a change of venue from Kaufman County for Williams’ trial due to widespread publicity. Both Rockwall and Kaufman counties are directly east of Dallas County. Williams did not testify in his own defense.
“The results of the medical testing are expected to support Mr. Williams’ contention, to be made at a motion for new trial, that his mitigation case for a life sentence, rather than a death sentence, was severely prejudiced by the refusal of the trial judge to continue the trial of the punishment phase of the case to permit his counsel time to develop the argument that his judgment and decision making abilities were substantially impaired by damage to his brain, likely caused by uncontrolled Type 1 diabetes and related fainting and falling episodes,” the application states.
Williams “would have offered the results of the brain scans and related expert testimony as a part of his mitigation case, and to rebut the state’s argument that he constitutes a continuing threat to society.”
Williams’ attorneys want him taken to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston “as soon as practicable” to prepare for a motion for new trial, to be filed by the Jan. 16 deadline.
Williams’ wife, Kim, pleaded guilty to her role in the three murders and was sentenced to 40 years in state prison on Dec. 30. She was the prosecution’s star witness during Williams’ sentencing phase, testifying that he planned to kill Mike McClelland during a holiday weekend when his security detail would be gone.
She testified that Cynthia McClelland was killed as “collateral damage” because she saw the shooting and that Williams had to shoot her again because she was “still moaning.”
Williams’ attorneys claimed that the entire case was built on circumstantial evidence, with no murder weapon or eyewitnesses.

From Courthouse News.

Fmr. Kaufman County JP Gets Death For Gunning Down DA’s Wife

By David Lee
December 17, 2014
ROCKWALL, Texas (CN) – A state jury Wednesday sentenced a former Texas justice of the peace to death for murdering a district attorney’s wife as “collateral damage” in his alleged killings of two prosecutors.
The Rockwall County jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon on the sentencing of Eric Williams, 47. He was convicted on Dec. 5 after a four-day trial for the capital murder of Cynthia McClelland, wife of former Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McClelland.
The McClellands were gunned down in their home on March 28, 2013, two months after Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was shot to death in a Kaufman County courthouse parking lot by a masked gunman.
Prosecutors said during trial that Williams plotted to killed McLelland and Hasse after they prosecuted him in 2012 for stealing three county computer monitors. That conviction resulted in the loss of Williams’s job and his disbarment.
The prosecution’s star witness during the sentencing phase was Kim Williams, his estranged wife. She testified Tuesday that Williams planned to kill Mike McClelland during a holiday weekend when his security detail would be gone. She chillingly testified that Cynthia McClelland was killed as “collateral damage” because she was a witness to the shooting and that Williams had to shoot her again because she was “still moaning.”
Accused as the getaway driver in all three murders, Kim Williams described the couple’s joy and excitement after Hasse’s murder. She shared her husband’s anger at the prosecutor, she said.
The sentencing phase of the trial lasted two weeks, with defense attorneys calling a long line of character witnesses on Williams’s behalf. The jury deliberated for three hours Tuesday before being sequestered for the night. They reached a verdict Wednesday morning.
Visiting Dallas County Judge Mike Snipes had harsh words for Williams after his sentence was read, comparing him to Charles Manson and Jeffrey Dahmer.
“You made yourself out to be some kind of Charles Bronson, a vigilante,” Snipes said. “At the end of the day, you murdered a little old lady.”
The murders rocked the close-knit town of Kaufman and forced authorities to provide security and bodyguards for judges and prosecutors.
“Kaufman County, you’ve been scared for a few years now,” Snipes said. “There’s no reason to be scared anymore.”
Snipes had granted a change of venue from neighboring Kaufman County due to widespread publicity. Both Rockwall and Kaufman counties are directly east of Dallas County.
Williams did not testify in his defense. His attorneys claimed that the entire case was built on circumstantial evidence, with no murder weapon or eyewitnesses.
Kim Williams is awaiting trial.

From Courthouse News.

Fmr. Kaufman County JP Convicted of Murdering District Attorney’s Wife

December 5, 2014
By David Lee
ROCKWALL, Texas (CN) – A Texas jury took just 95 minutes Thursday to convict a former Kaufman County justice of the peace of murdering a district attorney’s wife – one of three people he was accused of killing.
Eric Williams, 47, could face the death penalty for the murder of Cynthia McLelland, the wife of former Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland.
Williams was tried this week only for the murder of Cynthia McLelland, giving prosecutors a shot at prosecuting him later for two other killings, one by one.
The McLellands were gunned down in their home on March 28, 2013 – two months after Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse was shot to death in a Kaufman County courthouse parking lot by a masked gunman .
The murders rocked the close-knit town of Kaufman and forced authorities to provide security and bodyguards for area judges and prosecutors .
During the four-day trial, prosecutors said Williams plotted to kill McLelland and Hasse after they prosecuted him in 2012 for stealing three county computer monitors. That conviction resulted in the loss of Williams’ job and his disbarment. Prosecutors described an arsenal of tactical gear and firearms found at a storage shed that Williams rented, and a getaway vehicle they claim was driven by Williams’ estranged wife, Kim.
Visiting Dallas County Judge Mike Snipes had granted a change of venue to neighboring Rockwall County due to widespread publicity in Kaufman County. Both counties are directly east of Dallas County.
Matthew Seymour, Williams’ public defender, told the jury during closing arguments that the prosecution’s case was built on circumstantial evidence.
“There is not one single piece of biometric evidence in this case,” Seymour said Thursday. “There is no known murder weapon in this case … there is not one piece of evidence. No DNA, no fingerprint, not one hair, nothing.”
Seymour said there were no eyewitnesses and called the prosecution’s case a “fantasy” and a “guess” with “no proof.”
Williams declined to testify and no defense witnesses were called.
Prosecutor Toby Shook acknowledged the mountain of circumstantial evidence, but told the jury it collectively acts like a “net.”
“Piece it all together,” Shook said. “The evidence traps Eric Williams.”
Shook cited two mistakes by Williams. First, that markings found on bullets in Williams’ storage shed matched marks on the shell casings found in the McLellands’ home. Williams’ attorneys tried in November to get expert testimony on that ballistics evidence excluded, but failed.
Shook told jurors the ballistics evidence was Williams’ “undoing.”
“That seals his fate,” Shook said. “That is a smoking gun, folks.”
Shook said Williams’ second mistake was contacting Kaufman County Crime Stoppers and sending an anonymous confession. A password provided by Crime Stoppers to the sender of the message was found during the execution of a warrant at Williams’ home.
Prosecutor Bill Wirskye told jurors the murders were an “unprecedented assault on the foundation of the criminal justice system.” He asked jurors who else could possibly hate the McLellands and frame Williams?
“If not Eric Williams, then who?” Wirskye asked.
Wirskye referred to Cynthia McLelland in response to Seymour’s citing a lack of witnesses.
“There was an eyewitness, but he put a bullet in her brain,” Wirskye said.
Immediately before closing arguments, Snipes denied Williams’ motion for a mistrial due to the alleged broadcasting of juror names by the media during the live simulcasting of the trial.
Sentencing begins on Monday.

From Courtthouse News.

Judge Admits Ballistics Evidence for Trial of Texas JP Accused of Triple Murder

November 17, 2014
By David Lee
ROCKWALL, Texas (CN) – A Texas judge will allow ballistics evidence in the upcoming trial of a former justice of the peace accused of killing a district attorney and his wife in their home after allegedly gunning down a prosecutor in broad daylight.
Eric Williams’s capital murder trial is set to begin on Dec. 1 in Rockwall County, to which it was transferred from neighboring Kaufman County.
Williams, 47, is accused of murdering Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McClelland and his wife Cynthia in their home near Forney in March 2013.
Those killings came two months after McClelland’s first assistant DA – Mark Hasse – was shot to death in a courthouse parking lot.
Williams could be sentenced to death if convicted.
McLelland and Hasse had prosecuted Williams for stealing county computer equipment, resulting in the loss of his judgeship and law license.
Visiting Dallas County Judge Mike Snipes on Friday denied Williams’ motion to strike the testimony of prosecution ballistics expert James Jeffress, of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Jeffress testified Friday that guns found at Williams’ storage unit matched 16 spent bullets found at the McClellands’ home.
Williams’ attorney, public defender Matthew Seymour, argued that there is no statistical basis for matching bullets with a specific gun, that the science is not exact enough to be considered expert opinion.
“The way Mr. Jeffress conducted his examination and the way other laboratories conduct their examinations … which one is correct?” he asked. “Which one has more bearing, which one simply has a greater degree of accuracy?”
Jeffress rebutted the argument, testifying that the science of linking markings on bullets to specific guns is proven.
“I believe the consecutive manufactured studies – which we have done for over 30 years – have consistently demonstrated that we can do what we say we can do,” Jeffress said. “The barrel test has been taken by 508 examiners in 20 different countries, with an error rate of less than 1 percent.”
In denying the motion to strike, Snipes cited the regular admission of ballistics evidence in courts across the country.

From Courthouse News.