Honolulu jury to decide fate of Schofield soldier

By Paula Akana
Published On: Apr 28 2014 06:18:19 PM HST
Court

HONOLULU -

Jurors in the Naeem Williams trial will wake up Tuesday with a rare burden on their shoudlers: deciding whether Williams should be put to death for killing his daughter, Talia Williams.

Hawaii is one of 18 states that has abolished the death penalty, making this a rare and historic moment in the state's legal history.

The jury in the Williams trial will first decide if the former solider is eligible for the death penalty. If so, members will then deliberate on whether he should receive that penalty.

If he receives capital punishment, it would be the first death penalty conviction in Hawaii since pre-statehood.

The death penalty was abolished in Hawaii in 1957.

Law professor Williamson Chang said it was abolished after a Democratic shift in government.

He said what was seen as racism in the past played a big roll. Between 1826 and 1944, 75 documented hangings were carried out in Hawaii. Many of them were in the old buildings at the Oahu Communty Corrections Center.

Those killed included 24 Hawaiians,  24 Filipino, six Japanese and one Caucasian.

The federal government has the right to charge Williams with a capital crime because the Williams murder took place on federal property, a U.S. Army base.

And even with death penalty opponents in Hawaii, there have been no public protests in the case.

"There's not a lot of clamor. I think part if it is because of the horrific nature of the crime," said Chang.

"The main issue is to take a life. When a life is lost is revenge. It's not justice. And so as an enlightened society I think we really have to aim toward being better," said Joshua Cooper of the Hawaii Institute for Human Rights.

Cooper said instead of protesting, death penalty opponents are hoping to change the climate so the beating that led to Talia Williams death doesn't happen again.

The jury must be unanimous. It has the final word.

If Williams is sentenced to death, execution will not be carried out in Hawaii. Federal officials said he will more than likely be sent to a federal facility in Terra Haute, In., where the only recent federal death sentences have been carried out.

Every male federal death row inmate is currently imprisoned in Terra Haute.

Lethal injection is the method of execution there.

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