Defense seeks mercy for Texan facing execution for revenge murder

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2014 7:08 PM

By Lisa Maria Garza

DALLAS (Reuters) - Defense attorneys for a former Texas justice of peace convicted of capital murder in a revenge plot against two prosecutors rested their case on Monday in the penalty phase, having asked jurors to invoke Jesus' mercy and spare him from execution.

The same jury that convicted Eric Williams, 47, on Dec. 4 of murdering Cynthia McLelland in 2013 will likely begin deliberations on Tuesday in the penalty phase, with prosecutors seeking the death penalty.

Williams has also been charged with murdering District Attorney Mike McLelland, Cynthia's husband, and Kaufman County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hasse, to get back at them for obtaining a theft conviction that cost Williams his job and law license, prosecutors said.

Williams' attorney Maxwell Peck urged jurors in his opening statement last week to consider what Jesus would do and to show the mercy and forgiveness that is part of the Christmas season.

"Because this is a God-fearing nation, we make room in our justice system for the possibility that mercy is the correct and just punishment for even the most heinous of crimes," Peck said.

A death penalty verdict must be unanimous. If that decision is not reached, Williams faces life in jail.

But prosecutors have indicated they could bring Williams to trial for the other two deaths if the current case does not result in a capital punishment decision.

Hasse was gunned down outside the Kaufman County Courthouse on Jan. 31, 2013, and the McLellands were shot dead inside their home on March 30, 2013.

In a 90-minute deposition taped before the trial and shown on Monday, Williams' mother, Jesse Williams, expressed her sympathies for the victims' families but asked the jury to spare her son.

"Are you going to be really serving any purpose by taking his life?" she said.

Williams' wife, Kim, is also charged with capital murder and will be tried separately. No date has been set for her trial.

(Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Eric Beech)