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Jurors: Stepmom's role helped Hawaii soldier avoid death

Jul. 8, 2014 - 07:54AM   |  
This Nov. 10, 2003, photo released by Tarshia Williams shows Williams' daughter Talia Williams in Orangeburg, S.C. Jurors are considering whether to sentence Naeem Williams, a former Hawaii soldier, to death or life in prison after he was convicted of beating his daughter Talia to death.
This Nov. 10, 2003, photo released by Tarshia Williams shows Williams' daughter Talia Williams in Orangeburg, S.C. Jurors are considering whether to sentence Naeem Williams, a former Hawaii soldier, to death or life in prison after he was convicted of beating his daughter Talia to death. (Tarshia Williams/AP)
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HONOLULU — Delilah Williams testified at her husband’s murder trial that she had stomped on her 5-year-old stepdaughter so hard that she heard bone crack.

She said she and her former soldier husband abused the girl regularly while they lived in Army housing in Hawaii, beating her with belts and withholding food for days.

Because of her testimony and a binding plea agreement, Williams will be sentenced to 20 years in prison, including nine years already served, in federal court in Honolulu on Tuesday, a prosecutor and her defense attorney said.

And her acknowledged role in the abuse helped keep her husband Naeem Williams from receiving the death penalty after he was convicted of murder. He is scheduled to be sentenced in October.

Jurors interviewed after the panel was unable to agree on a sentence in his trial said some of them partly blamed Delilah Williams for the death of Talia Williams. “She’s an evil person,” juror Clarence Kaona Jr. said. “It was because of her.”

Federal public defender Alexander Silvert, who represents Delilah Williams, had expected her guilty plea to a murder charge to have a major impact on the jury hearing the case against her husband. During the penalty phase of his trial, eight jurors wanted him executed; four sought life in prison.

“All along we thought that the deal the government struck with Delilah would be a very big factor for any juror in imposing the death penalty for Naeem,” Silvert said.

Some of the jurors planned to attend her sentencing.

“Hopefully that will give me some closure,” juror Kelle Mata said about traveling to the Honolulu courtroom from his home on Kauai to honor the young victim.

Jurors said they considered many different factors in reaching their individual decisions.

In the end, jurors agreed the decision before them involved Naeem Williams, not his wife, Mata said. “The bottom line came down to she didn’t do the last blow,” he said.

Prosecutors say Naeem Williams delivered a deadly punch on July 16, 2005, that left knuckle imprints on Talia’s chest. He testified that he beat her that day in part because she spit toothpaste all over the sink.

“I went for death,” Mata said, noting that he had considered testimony about childhood abuse of the defendant. “Though it was a hard decision because I understand his past of him being abused and him having a psycho wife … had that influence.”

Fellow juror Betty Jane Auten said she considered the influence of Delilah Williams on her husband, “but Naeem could have stopped Delilah at any time from hurting his child.”

Some jurors said her plea deal was unfair.

“I just felt that was a done deal, we can’t change that,” Auten said. “We need to be focusing on his actions and what he did and didn’t do to protect his daughter.”

When jurors were finally able to discuss the case with each other, they unloaded their feelings about the horrible things done to the child.

“People were crying, screaming, just getting out all the emotion that we had to keep in for so long,” Mata said.

When Delilah Williams, 30, completes the remainder of her sentence, she’ll be about 40.

“Given her conduct (at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center), she’s probably not going to get a lot of good behavior credit,” Silvert said.

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