A longtime friend of murder defendant Joseph Scott Williams said he was bullied, demeaned and pushed by the victim.
“This was a man backed against a wall like a child whose father has been beating on them,” Anthony Tate said from the witness stand Tuesday in Hall County Superior Court in Gainesville.
Tate said the 33-year-old Williams felt he had “no way out” when Adrian Thompson, 37, was gunned down on June 3, 2013, in the Pepper’s Grocery & Market parking lot.
While a large court audience heard Tate’s testimony, jurors did not.
Attorneys questioned Tate, who gave detailed accounts of prior encounters, so presiding Judge Jason Deal could decide what fit the scope of the legal issues at hand. The panel of 12 is still largely in the dark as to what exactly may have motivated Williams to pull the trigger at least seven times by witness accounts and forensic evidence.
Williams faces charges of malice murder, felony murder, possession of a gun during the commission of a crime and possession of a gun by a convicted felon. The state rested its case after concluding direct examination of a Gainesville police investigator; admitting testimony of the medical examiner; and submitting to jurors eyewitness accounts from four bystanders, two of whom were children.
A 7-year-old child testified he was still scared after seeing Thompson, his basketball coach whom he and others called “A.T.,” shot.
Stanley Stephens, an adult witness, was near the grocery store when he heard Thompson’s screams.
“He was just begging to God (for his assailant) to not shoot him anymore,” he said.
“It was something I had never seen before,” he added.
Williams is represented by Senior Public Defender Travis Williams, who paraphrasing for profanity, asked Stephens on cross examination if he knew what Joseph Williams meant when he told Thompson to “‘stop effing with me.’”
Stephens said he did not.
Co-counselor Rose Priddy, also a public defender, argued for a directed verdict of not guilty from Deal after the state concluded it presentation of evidence, which he denied. Priddy said evidence showed there was “a significant amount of provocation” leading up to the shooting.
Tate said Thompson and Joseph Williams went way back, although the event that may have ignited the most animosity was Thompson’s marriage to Joseph Williams’ ex-wife, Chassity Thompson, while Joseph Williams was incarcerated.
Lead prosecutor Assistant District Attorney Shiv Sachdeva said in his opening statement the shooting was a malicious murder sparked by jealousy and revenge.
Joseph Williams’ attorneys have said in prior hearings that past violent acts of Thompson influenced their client’s state of mind prior to the slaying, in theory strengthening the self-defense argument.
Deal has twice postponed in pretrial hearings a decision on whether such evidence will be admissible. He has said he would rule on the matter when the trial reaches a stage where Joseph Williams decides if he will testify in his own defense.
The trial was expected to run through the end of the week, although proceedings have moved at a brisk pace, Deal said.
Testimony resumes today at 9 a.m. as the defense continues its presentation of evidence.