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Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Condemned Judge|Seeks New Trial

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.

Follow @davejourno
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