Family, friends recount ex-Hawaii soldier’s life in death penalty case
HONOLULU — Friends, family and acquaintances of a former Hawaii soldier facing a death sentence for the murder of his 5-year-old daughter have been testifying about his background and character as his defense lawyers try to convince jurors to spare his life.
After hearing testimony, the federal jury will deliberate on whether Naeem Williams should be sentenced to death or to spend the rest of his life in prison. They convicted Williams of capital murder after a trial where he testified that he beat his daughter Talia often to discipline her for bathroom accidents and because of frustrations in his marriage to his wife, Delilah Williams, the child’s stepmother. The same jury later agreed with prosecutors that the circumstances surrounding the crimes warranted consideration of the death penalty.
If sentenced to death, it will be the first time in the history of Hawaii’s statehood because territorial leaders abolished capital punishment in 1957. But because the crime occurred on military property, the case is in federal court, where the death penalty is available.
Naeem Williams’ sisters, former Army colleagues and others have been in court since Wednesday telling jurors about why his life is valuable — despite the conviction.
Some highlights of the testimony so far:
Uylessa Muse (younger sister)
Through tears, Uylessa Muse described physical abuse her brother suffered from her father, Williams’ stepfather. She said her father treated Williams badly because he wasn’t his biological child.
“Does Naeem Williams still hold a place of importance for you in your life?” asked defense attorney John Philipsborn.
Muse sobbed. After a pause, she replied, “He does.”
“He’s my brother,” she continued. “He’s my friend and he’s been a confidant for me. He’s been a pillar of support in everything I’ve done. … He’s been there without judgment or ridicule. When I think of him he just makes my heart smile. I love him so much.”
Yaid Cardona (former Armycolleague)
Cardona described Williams as easygoing and disciplined. “He was always quiet. He’d keep to himself,” Cardona said. “He was creased up, boots shined…he was good.”
Much of his testimony focused on the couple’s rocky relationship. “They used to argue a lot…mostly on her part,” he said. “She was a very, very jealous person…very jealous.”
Cardona described an incident where Delilah Williams barged into the barracks, accusing him of being unfaithful. Using expletives, mimicking a woman’s voice and pounding on the witness stand, Cardona tried to demonstrate how she pounded on the door, causing jurors to explode in a rare moment of laughter.
Daisy Pruitt (former lover)
Pruitt said she met Williams in an Internet chat room around 2004, while he was stationed in Hawaii. She said they had a sexual relationship and she later learned that he was married when his wife called her, demanding they stop seeing each other.
“He was really nice,” she said, adding that she hasn’t been in contact with him since about 2005.
Trenia Muse (aunt)
Trenia Muse described her nephew as someone who yearned to be loved because his stepfather, her brother, “acted as if he hated that child.”
She said it would be sad to lose him: “His life means everything to me.”
Noel Viyar (former federal prison inmate)
Viyar, convicted on a meth charge, was in the same unit as Williams at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center in 2007, where they took a typing class together.
“He’s a very decent man and he never talked about other people,” Viyar said, adding that Williams got along with everyone.
Terrance Muse (an older cousin)
Terrance Muse said Williams was never violent or rough, even with his wife Delilah, whom he described as controlling.
“He’s my first cousin, somebody I loved from the day I first met him,” he said. “Even though this happened, I can’t stop loving him.”