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Eyewitnesses give their accounts of killing

Allegation of jury tampering made

POSTED: June 25, 2014 10:17 p.m.

Taking the stand in his defense Wednesday, Joseph Williams said he was a “scared man shooting for his life” when he gunned down 37-year-old Adrian Thompson.

But by his own admission, his fear went beyond the immediate threat to his life on that June 3, 2013, afternoon.

“I was afraid that if I had not took the desperate measure that I took that Adrian was going to come back and do something,” he said.

And under questioning from both his attorney, and referenced again by the prosecutor, he said he would have kept pulling the trigger but for Thompson’s pleas.

“Adrian told me, ‘Bro, please stop.’ If he had never told me, I would have kept shooting,” he said.

The answer drew vocal reaction from the more than 100 onlookers in court, and was only one of many tense moments, including a motion for mistrial after a question that drew considerable scorn from presiding Judge Jason Deal, that came on the third day of testimony in the trial.

“Are you aware that Mr. (Anthony) Tate attempted to bribe a juror yesterday?” Assistant District Attorney Shiv Sachdeva asked Williams on cross-examination.

Joseph Williams’ attorney Senior Public Defender Travis Williams immediately objected, and jurors were quickly shuffled outside the courtroom.

“That is a crazy thing to say — even if he had a good faith basis — knowing the connotation,” Travis Williams said. “The state has put us in a position where we have no choice but to ask for a mistrial.”

Deal found the “question was improper” but did not declare a mistrial, instead reminding jurors the attorneys’ questions are not evidence. The validity of the allegation has not yet been further examined by the court.

With clear, close surveillance footage capturing the violent confrontation, the defense for Joseph Williams has faced a seemingly uphill battle since opening statements in Hall County Superior Court.

But his team gave jurors a significant amount of testimony to consider, testimony that was not easy to secure.

Even Deal noted the reluctance of others to come forward.

“There’s a lot of people who aren’t testifying because they don’t want to be here,” he told a less-than-pleased Damion Carter before the jury was seated for his testimony. “Mr. (Joseph) Williams himself doesn’t look too pleased to be here.”

Carter, whose attorney was present, was visiting his younger sister in the area of Peppers Grocery & Market in Gainesville, and saw the incident as it unfolded in the parking lot, he said.

“(Joseph Williams) said ‘Leave me alone,’” he said. “It started going downhill from there.”

He doesn’t know what Thompson meant, he said, when he referenced a weapon before going to his car.

“He made a comment about a gun. ... He was either going to put one up or he was going to get one,” Carter said.

The former close friends harbored ill will after Thompson began seeing Chassity Thompson, the ex-wife of Joseph Williams, witnesses have said. Joseph Williams, communicating with an illegal cellphone in prison, he said, directed his then-wife to ask for money from Thompson. The two would eventually get married while Joseph Williams was still in prison.

Sachdeva said in his opening statement the shooting was a malicious murder sparked by jealousy and revenge, although Joseph Williams told him he “was not angry at all” about the situation.

Perhaps the most lively testimony came from the final witness in the trial, Rico Bledson, who said he was one of the few people to not turn on their heels and flee the scene before law enforcement arrived, including his brother Ricky Bledson, who said he left without talking to police in order to avoid the very court appearance he was making.

Travis Williams asked why he didn’t want to be in court.

“There’s rules in the streets, man, you know what I’m saying?” he replied.

Ricky Bledson said Thompson grabbed Joseph Williams by the throat, then punched him before he turned to his car for a pistol, or “tool” as he heard, with another motion to his hip confirming as much to him.

“People in the ‘hood, they know what it is when someone makes that motion,” he said.

None of the witnesses said they saw Thompson in possession of a gun at any point in the incident. Police said he was unarmed when he was killed.

Prosecutors concluded cross-examination of several defense witnesses, including the Bledsons, by asking about criminal histories, the vast majority drug-related. Williams’ convictions for a domestic violence incident and drug charges were also entered in evidence.

Thompson’s prior convictions, including for methamphetamine distribution in 2005, are inadmissible, although testimony on alleged prior violent acts from several years ago was entered.

Attorneys will give their closing arguments to jurors this morning. Joseph Williams has been on trial since Monday.


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