On May 29, 1995,
Richard White, a.k.a. “Pookie,” telephoned Lamar Peterson, a friend of
Williams, seeking to buy a large quantity of marijuana to replenish the
inventory for his drug dealing operation.
Peterson concluded that
if White had sold all his marijuana, White would have a significant
amount of cash on hand. Peterson suggested to Williams that they rob
White through a “stinger;" Peterson would engage White in a drug
transaction, during which Williams would suddenly appear and rob them
Peterson and Williams
would reconnect later and share in the pelf. Peterson, Williams, and
Curtis French set out to find White, but Peterson could not remember the
exact location of White’s apartment.
The three returned to
Peterson’s apartment where they informed Ralph Logan, a.k.a. “Rah-Rah,”
and Luis Avila, a.k.a. “TBone,” of the plan. The group decided to make
another attempt to find White. This time, Avila called White and
informed him he would soon drop by to purchase marijuana.
Avila, Logan, and
Williams set out on another robbery attempt; however, this too was
unsuccessful after the trio went to the wrong apartment. Again, Williams
and his cohorts returned to Peterson’s apartment. Giving the “stinger”
one last try, Avila called White again and ascertained his apartment’s
exact location; Williams, Avila, and Logan again set out to rob him.
White was on his
balcony when he saw the trio approaching; White tucked a pistol in the
rear of his shorts and headed to the street, where he encountered the
group. Williams demanded White take him to his apartment and hand over
When White refused,
pleading with his arms in the air that his children were inside
sleeping, Williams pulled out a MAC 10 automatic weapon and fired two
bullets into White’s chest and a third into his thigh as he fell to the
ground. With White lying in the street, the group fled back to
Upon their arrival,
Williams informed Peterson that because White was uncooperative, he
“wetted him lovely,” i.e., Williams shot him. The other robbers also
testified that Williams bragged about shooting White.
Later that summer,
Peterson and Williams were arrested in Baltimore by the FBI for an
unrelated bank robbery. Facing federal charges, Peterson told
authorities of Williams' role in the robbery and murder of White. Avila,
French, and Logan were also arrested and each corroborated Peterson’s
account. The three later testified Williams used the same weapon in many
subsequent bank robberies.
Peterson’s possession at the time of his arrest depicted Williams,
Peterson, French, and Logan; one showed Williams posing with the MAC 10
used to kill White. In November, 1996, Williams was convicted in federal
court of robbery and was sentenced to 687 months federal incarceration.
Having already filed
first degree murder charges against Williams, Lehigh County prosecutors
monitored Williams' federal prosecution and attended portions of his
federal trial. Williams was ultimately transferred to a federal prison
in Colorado; Lehigh prosecutors sought extradition.
This request was
delayed because Williams had previously filed homicide charges pending
against him in New Jersey, which was also attempting to secure him.
Eventually Williams was transferred to Lehigh County. Despite repeated
warnings and recommendations from the court to the contrary, Williams
represented himself during pretrial hearings and at trial.
At trial, and with
standby counsel assisting when Williams permitted, Williams attempted to
undermine the credibility of his accusers, but took the opportunity to
personally attack Commonwealth prosecutors, officers, and criminal
justice personnel. Williams repeatedly slurred one black prosecutor as
“house n****r” and lead prosecutor as conspirator and liar.
Since the majority of
the Commonwealth’s witnesses were co-conspirators in numerous robberies
and were currently serving time for other crimes, Williams harangued
each about the reduced sentences they received in exchange for their
cooperation with the Commonwealth.
French was the triggerman in White’s murder, and maintained a statewide
conspiracy was afoot wherein the Lehigh County District Attorney’s
Office, numerous police departments, prison staff employees, and even
appointed standby defense counsel were acting in concert.
Police came into
possession of the murder weapon after a failed robbery attempt by
Williams, Peterson, French, and another individual. As was their typical
strategy, the group tried to rob a drug dealer but were unsuccessful
when the dealer brandished a weapon; French dropped the machine gun as
the three fled for their lives.
revealed the gun recovered was used in White’s murder. This same weapon
was also linked to the bank robbery Williams was convicted of in federal
The car used in the
perpetration of White’s murder was also tracked down by police; it had
been rented by an associate of Williams, and had a dent in the fender
consistent with the strike of a bullet. Testimony revealed that when
Williams shot White, one of the bullets exited White’s body and
ricocheted off the getaway car.
In addition to the
physical evidence, the Commonwealth offered expert medical testimony
consistent with its other witnesses’ version of the killing,
particularly the fact that White was shot while his arms were raised.
The Commonwealth also
presented David Miller, an inmate at Lehigh County Prison, who testified
Williams admitted to him he had killed somebody and was seeking Miller’s
legal advice concerning his case.
Miller’s assistance, Williams spoke to another inmate, Louis Washington,
about having one of Washington’s family members provide an alibi for
Williams' whereabouts on the night of White’s murder. “So then [Williams]
offered me some money, and he offered my family some money to have my
mother be his alibi ….”).
Coached by Williams,
this woman was to testify Williams was with her during the homicide, and
because she had no criminal record or prior involvement with Williams,
her story would be believed over Williams' criminal cohorts. After being
threatened by Williams, Washington told the Commonwealth of Williams'
As a result, and at the
meeting arranged by Williams to “go over” this testimony, Washington’s
mother was portrayed by state Trooper Regina Stafford; the Commonwealth
had previously secured warrants to record the conversations.
During the conversation,
Williams orchestrated a time sequence placing him with Washington’s
mother at the time of White’s murder, and informed her exactly what she
was expected to say.
At trial, Williams
called Washington to authenticate an affidavit exonerating Williams
which Washington had signed; Washington testified he signed the
affidavit only after being threatened. Williams attacked Washington’s
credibility and the suggested alibi fabrication story; on cross-examination,
the Commonwealth further explored the fabrication story.
After Williams again
tried to discredit Washington by alleging he invented the alibi story to
curry favor with the Commonwealth, the prosecution was granted
permission, in rebuttal, to verify Washington’s version of events.
Officer Stafford testified to the alibi plot, and the tape recording of
the conversation was played for the jury. Williams was convicted on all
represented himself during the penalty hearing, asking the jury to
consider his character and the circumstances surrounding the crime, and
his allegedly minor criminal record. Williams argued he was not a
violent person and made repeated attacks on the character of the victim,
i.e., the victim was armed, a neglectful parent, and a notorious drug
offered the jury two aggravating circumstances, namely, Williams'
history of violent felonies, and that Williams committed the murder
while in the course of a felony.
The jury found the
Commonwealth proved both aggravating circumstances, and rejected all
Williams' proposed mitigating evidence; Williams was sentenced to death.