Penalty phase begins for ex-Texas justice of peace

AP News
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Posted: Dec 08, 2014 7:22 PM
Penalty phase begins for ex-Texas justice of peace

ROCKWALL, Texas (AP) — An assistant prosecutor shouted "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" in the moments before a gunman bent on revenge shot him repeatedly last year in North Texas, according to testimony in the punishment phase of the capital murder trial of a former justice of the peace.

The jury began hearing testimony Monday to determine whether Eric Williams, 47, should receive life in prison or the death penalty for the March 2013 killing of Cynthia McLelland, the wife of slain Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland. The couple was found dead in their home east of Dallas.

But prosecutors Monday turned their attention to the death of assistant prosecutor Mark Hasse, whom Williams is charged with killing in January 2013. Testimony is set to resume on Tuesday.

"You will see the patterns of his anti-social behavior and his violent tendencies," prosecutor Bill Wirskye said while standing near Williams. "You will get a glimpse inside and see what lies beneath this facade of normalcy."

Prosecutors contend Williams launched a revenge plot to kill Hasse and the McLellands when he lost his judicial job and law license after being convicted in 2012 of stealing county computer monitors.

Two people testified Monday that they witnessed a confrontation near the Kaufman County courthouse. Prosecutors told jurors a "masked assassin" they identified as Williams approached Hasse as he walked to work and the two began shoving one another.

Hasse could then be heard pleading and yelling "I'm sorry" before he was shot multiple times. The gunman then walked toward a car, got into the passenger side and the vehicle sped away. Authorities have said the car was driven by Williams' wife. The two are now estranged. Kim Williams has been indicted for capital murder, though her attorney has said she is cooperating with prosecutors. She did not testify in her husband's trial last week.

The trial was held in Rockwall County due to attention the case received in Kaufman County.