OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Almost two years after a 10-year-old boy starved to death at an Oklahoma Army base, a soldier accused of first-degree murder is set to go on trial in a rare case in which federal prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Monday at the federal courthouse in Lawton for the trial of Pvt. Connell C. Williams, 33, who was indicted by a federal grand jury for the May 5, 2011, death of Marcus Holloway, the son of Williams' girlfriend, at Fort Sill in southwestern Oklahoma. He has pleaded not guilty.
A September 2011 indictment accused Williams and the boy's mother, Candice Holloway, 32, of depriving the boy of food over a period of about four months until he starved to death. Holloway pleaded guilty to first-degree murder as part of a plea agreement in which she will serve 30 years in federal prison and testify against Williams.
Since 1927, there have been only 37 federal executions, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
Federal prosecutors filed to seek the death penalty last April because they claim Williams "committed the offense in an especially heinous, cruel, or depraved manner in that it involved torture and serious physical abuse to the victim." The notice of intent, authorized by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, also cites the vulnerability of the victim and the fact that he was in Williams' care and custody.
Holloway brought her son and daughter to live with Williams at Fort Sill. The couple was not married, and Williams is not the children's biological father.
Prosecutors allege Williams has a "pattern of violent criminal conduct," including a history of stalking women with whom he has had prior relationships and prior incidents of physical abuse of children. They also allege the victim's sister has been impacted by the death of her brother "and the fact that she was forced to, in essence, participate in the abuse of her brother."
Evidence in the case will include portions of a six-hour, video-recorded statement Williams gave investigators. In it, Williams discusses the boy's diet and mentions certain foods, such as rice cakes. "There is also mention of food restriction for discipline," according to court papers.
Defense attorneys objected to prosecutors' plan to show the jury only about 22 minutes of the recording and argued that jurors should be allowed to see the entire statement. U.S. District Judge Stephen P. Friot granted portions of the motion, but denied the request to use the entire statement.
Williams' attorneys argued that other portions of the statement are proof of Williams' remorse, saying that Williams repeatedly cries, prays "and begs for forgiveness."
"Indeed, the fact that the defendant cooperated with investigators and submitted to their lengthy interrogation is itself a mitigating factor," the defense motion said.
Only two people have been executed by the federal government for crimes committed in Oklahoma, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, and two others are on federal death row.
Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Timothy McVeigh was executed by lethal injection in 2001 after being convicted on federal murder charges in the deaths of eight federal agents in the April 19, 1995, attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building that killed 168 people. Arthur Gooch was convicted on a federal kidnapping conviction and executed by hanging in 1936.
Those on death row are Kenneth Eugene Barrett for killing an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper during a 1999 drug raid near Sallisaw, and Edward Leon Fields Jr., who murdered two campers in the Ouachita National Forest in 2003 while wearing a homemade sniper suit.