After two hearings on the matter, a Hall County judge again postponed a decision on whether alleged prior violent actions of a Gainesville man killed in the Pepper’s Market parking lot will be admissible in court.
Attorneys for Joseph Scott Williams, who is accused of malice murder in the June 3 shooting, have implied that violent acts of Adrian Thompson influenced Williams’ state of mind prior to the slaying, making them relevant to the case.
Thompson’s first name is spelled “Adrien” on the motions, but was spelled “Adiren” on police and earlier court documents. His name was listed as “Adrian” on his Facebook page and in his obituary.
Police said Williams, 33, shot Thompson multiple times before fleeing down E.E. Butler Parkway in Gainesville.
Williams was indicted on charges of malice murder, felony murder, possession of a gun by a convicted felon, possession of a gun in commission of a crime and terroristic threats. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Judge Jason Deal said Tuesday that based on evidence presented and the down-the-line timing of a possible self-defense theory solidifying, he will not rule on the matter until the trial commences. Jury selection is scheduled to begin on June 16, and presentation of evidence the following week.
Assistant District Attorney Shiv Sachdeva requested the motion be denied and not up for reconsideration, saying evidence of prior violence presented was neither competent or relevant, and excessively prejudicial for the state’s case.
The defense entered testimony as its basis for allowing jurors to know about prior violent acts that are otherwise inadmissible.
Family and friends of Thompson were stone-faced as the first witness took the stand to talk about an incident where Thompson allegedly shot him in a nightclub tussle more than 20 years ago.
Senior Public Defender Travis Williams and co-counselor Rose Priddy implied in questioning that several witnesses had changed their tune since speaking to them or investigators for the public defender’s office.
Court deputies had to subdue several shows of emotion throughout the hearing as the audience of about 40 laughed, gasped and guffawed at testimony. Most were in support of Thompson, donning buttons that read “Justice 4 Adrian.”
At the two-hour hearing, there was also discussion of a defense motion to suppress interviews with Williams’ spiritual advisor, Imam Bilal Ali, which Deal also did not rule on.
Police said Ali was driving when Williams was arrested by Flowery Branch police. Travis Williams, who said his client was on his way to turn himself in, argued that Georgia code grants privacy privilege to the conversation the two had in the aftermath of the shooting, as Joseph Williams sought spiritual guidance.
Sachdeva said the immunity for spiritual leaders was not like spousal immunity, and that Ali could not refuse to take the stand before a jury had heard the case.
“It’s a limited scope,” he said, requesting that Ali testify at the hearing. “Let’s see what’s admissible and what’s not.”
Sachdeva was in apparent agreement that at least portions of the recorded interviews would fall under privilege, and Deal asked the state to transcribe the videos so that line-by-line the two sides could determine what they do and do not dispute is admissible.
Deal said he will consider the matter further at a June 11 hearing.