Attorneys argue for, against death for ex-soldier

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. (AP Photo/Tarshia Williams)

HONOLULU (AP) — A federal prosecutor asked for the “ultimate punishment” for a former soldier convicted of his 5-year-old daughter’s murder, while a defense attorney asked for mercy.

Attorneys in a federal death penalty case in Hawaii summed up their arguments Friday on what sentence jurors should give Naeem Williams for the 2005 beating death of his 5-year-old daughter, Talia.

The jury that convicted Williams of capital murder in April will decide if his sentence will be death or life in prison without possibility for release.

U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright told jurors they can begin deliberating Friday. But he suggested they pick a foreperson, discuss organizational matters and then deliberate when they return next week, on Thursday.

Williams deserves the death penalty because he beat and tortured his young daughter almost daily when she lived with him while he was stationed in Hawaii, said Steven Mellin, a trial attorney in the Justice Department’s capital case unit.

“He knew full well how important it was to protect to Talia,” Mellin said. “He had just been given custody of her because she had been malnourished by her mother.”

Williams testified during the trial that he beat the girl to discipline her for bathroom accidents. On Wednesday, he read a statement apologizing for killing her and asking jurors to let him live.

Mellin recounted the abuse, which included whipping Talia with a belt while she was duct-taped to a bedpost and beating her for eating a doughnut. The girl was left home alone during the day in a room with “no bed, no mattress, no sheets, no blanket, no pillows, no books, no toys … and at times, no food,” Mellin said.

Mellin suggested Williams’ life will be much easier in prison, where he’ll have three meals a day, exercise, opportunities to watch TV and a bed. “If he’s ever assaulted in prison, he gets immediate treatment and protection,” Mellin said.

Defense attorney Michael Burt likened the monotony of life in a maximum-security federal penitentiary to the constraints of jury service. He noted that Friday marked the 41st day of the trial.

“He has been in custody since 2005, so he has served about 3,000 days, not 41 days in captivity,” Burt said. “He’ll never see the light of day. That is real punishment.”

Burt urged jurors to consider Williams’ two other children, an 11-year-old son living in Georgia and a 9-year-old daughter living in Tennessee. He also said that caring for a special-needs child like Talia would be difficult for anyone, “let alone someone with Mr. Williams’ intellectual limitations.”

The jury should also consider Talia’s stepmother, Delilah Williams, Burt said, who pleaded guilty to her role in the death, and in exchange for a 20-year sentence testified against her husband in graphic detail about abuse they inflicted.

“It’s simply not fair to inflict the ultimate sentence of death for Mr. Williams when Delilah Williams will someday soon see the light of day if she gets her 20 year sentence,” he said. U.S. District Judge J. Michael Seabright has ruled that Delilah Williams must wait until jurors in Naeem Williams’ trial have been dismissed before she can be sentenced.

Williams is a “good, decent, honest, peaceful person,” despite his crimes and jurors should show him mercy, Burt said.


Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at

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