The murder trial of the man charged with killing two Kaufman County district attorneys, along with the wife of one of them, will begin this month as planned, after a judge refused Friday to postpone it.
State District Judge Mike Snipes ruled that Eric Williams' defense has had enough time to prepare after Williams' lawyers filed a 14-page motion for continuance to review all of the evidence.
Jury selection is set to begin Sept. 22, and opening arguments will begin Dec. 1.
“The defense will have had nearly 20 months to prepare for this case, assuming the case begins on Dec. 1, which is significantly more than the other death penalty cases that I have presided over,” Snipes said.
Williams, a former Kaufman County justice of the peace, appeared in court Friday in a business suit, not his jail outfit.
Investigators say revenge was the motive for the January 2013 murder of Assistant Kaufman County District Attorney Mark Hasse and the March 2013 murders of District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia. They contend Williams was angry after his conviction on burglary and theft charges prosecuted by the DA and his assistant.
Williams' estranged wife, Kim, is also a co-defendant in the case. But she is to be tried separately with no date scheduled. She has confessed to helping her husband commit the murders, is listed as a witness against him and is widely believed to be helping prosecutors in many ways with their case.
Federal agents searched Williamses' former Kaufman County home again Thursday and left with several bags of what appeared to be new evidence.
Eric Williams' lawyer Matthew Seymour accused prosecutors of concealing a deal with Kim Williams for her cooperation.
“It seems disingenuous to me that some type of agreement has not been reached with Mrs. Williams for her substantial participation in this case as a witness or to provide additional evidence,” Seymour said. “There is something afoot with Mrs. Williams case and it’s not proceeding like this case is and we think we know why.”
Special prosecutor Bill Wirskye bristled at Seymour's suggestion.
“No one at this table is being disingenuous. I’ll tell everyone in the courtroom, there is no deal with Kim Williams. Very simple,” Wirskye said. “It’s the state’s purgative who we try first. We decided to try Mr. Williams first. We will deal with Mrs. Williams at the appropriate time and the appropriate way. There simply is no plea bargain or any other agreement.”
The first trial will be for the death of Cynthia McLelland. Eric Williams' lawyers Friday sought to exclude evidence pertaining to the Hasse murder and Williams' burglary and theft case, but Judge Snipes said those issues should be heard by the jury.
“I agree that the allegations at least do go to show an overarching plan of the defendant to seek revenge,” Snipes said.
Judge Snipes from Dallas has asked two other judges with death penalty trial experience to help him with jury selection when it begins this month to guard against errors.
The trial was moved to Rockwall from Kaufman County where the murders occurred.