A Gainesville man on trial for murder was previously married to the wife of the victim, testimony in Hall County Superior Court revealed.
Joseph Scott Williams, 33, is accused in the June 3, 2013, shooting death of 37-year-old Adrian Thompson outside Pepper’s Grocery & Market on E.E. Butler Parkway in Gainesville.
Williams’ attorneys said the act was self-defense, and is a theory understood only in the context of their 20-year relationship.
Assistant District Attorney Shiv Sachdeva said the personal history surrounding the moment highlights that the case was about a “jealous” and “resentful” ex-husband getting revenge.
He said the slaying was a “cold-blooded execution,” with Williams firing at least seven shots.
The packed courtroom watched video of the incident, which was captured by a surveillance camera.
When the footage opens, a white Cadillac is the prominent image. Thompson suddenly enters the frame, running. Behind him is Williams, firing shots from a handgun with one outstretched arm.
Thompson eventually crumples to the ground. Propping himself up by his elbows, he appeared to be pleading with Williams, whose demeanor was “casual,” Sachdeva said.
Williams paces, points and fires another shot at Thompson, then paces again, and fires a final shot before fleeing.
“Execution, in cold blood, is not an exaggeration,” Sachdeva said, as the 100 or so faces readjusted their eyes to lights in the courtroom, still processing the video depiction of violence.
Testifying for the state, medical responders said Thompson arrived at the emergency room at Northeast Georgia Medical Center in critical condition with five gunshot wounds.
Dr. Chad Copper, a general surgeon for The Longstreet Clinic, said he led a team in an attempt to save Thompson on the operating table once he regained a pulse through resuscitation efforts. But the damage was too extensive. Thompson’s heart stopped beating within two hours of the shooting, Copper said.
Williams’ lead counsel, Senior Public Defender Travis Williams, said the state was downplaying another aspect of the encounter: the physical confrontation prior to the shots being fired. Those words and actions occupied the void between “what we see and what we know,” he said.
Compounding the nature of the encounter is the relationship between Thompson and Williams, which at one point was one of mentor and mentee before turning to bitter rivals, he said.
“There’s a lot of drama-filled situations in this case,” Travis Williams added.
The first witness for the state was the woman at the center of that drama, Chassity Thompson.
She married Thompson in 2010, whom she met while her then-husband Joseph Williams was in prison; Joseph Williams had her ask for money from the old friend to pad his commissary.
After he left prison, he was in and out of the life of his young son, Thompson said.
The night before the shooting, the two exchanged heated words in text messages after dropping the child off with the Thompsons. Joseph Williams said he was being disrespected, and made threatening statements.
“Pick you a good preacher. ... Try me ... I pray you do,” he wrote.
At one point, Chassity Thompson sent Joseph Williams’ her husband’s phone number, and asked him to take up his issues with him.
“Send it to Wimberly & Jackson,” the name of the funeral home that would handle Thompson’s arrangements days later, Joseph Williams replied,.
The trial comes a little more than one year after the incident. Joseph Williams was arrested hours later in a traffic stop after a lookout was issued by Gainesville police.
It has been implied by Joseph Williams’ attorneys in prior hearings that past violent acts of Thompson influenced their client’s state of mind prior to the slaying, making them relevant to the case and self-defense theory.
Presiding Judge Jason Deal has twice postponed a decision on whether such evidence will be admissible.
Joseph 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 trial is expected to run through the end of the week, Deal told jurors during the selection process.