The Supreme Court of Georgia justices unanimously upheld Joseph Scott Williams’ murder conviction Monday in the June 2013 fatal shooting at Peppers Market in Gainesville.
Williams was sentenced to life in prison without the chance of parole in July 2014 for the death of Adrian Thompson. His motion for new trial was denied in December 2015.
Williams appealed his conviction to the Georgia Supreme Court, arguing the trial court denied motions regarding a mistrial, self-defense claims and a request to shuffle the jury pool. Williams claimed that calling the prospective jurors in a different order would have ensured “a better representation of the community and promoted the jury’s impartiality,” according to the decision.
“Although Williams points to cases in which we concluded that a trial court did not abuse its discretion in manipulating the jury pool, he points to no law requiring such action,” according to the opinion.
Williams argued evidence favorable to a self-defense claim — alleged prior violence by Thompson against other people and Thompson giving Williams a gun — should have been admitted at trial.
The justices wrote that it was harmless error to not admit Thompson’s alleged prior violence, and giving someone a gun cannot alone be seen as an act of violence.
After an allegation of jury tampering, the prosecutor asked Williams about an alleged attempt by another person to bribe a juror. Williams’ attorney objected, leading to a motion for mistrial.
The motion was denied, and the judge asked the jury to disregard the question.
“Given the strength of the case against Williams, and the fact that the jury acquitted Williams on three charges, we find it highly improbable that the state’s single question contributed to the jury’s verdict,” according to the opinion, referring to acquittals on third-degree child cruelty and terroristic threats.
The court’s opinion also found Williams could not show his trial counsel was deficient.