Attorneys To File For New Trial Next Week
ATLANTA (AP) _ An attorney for Wayne B. Williams, convicted in two of the Atlanta child slayings, says he will go to court to seek a new trial on the grounds that police documents were withheld from defense lawyers.
Lynn Whatley said Monday the petition for a new trial ″will be filed sometime next week″ in Butts County, where Williams is serving a life sentence at the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification Center.
Williams, 27, was convicted in 1982 of killing two men in their 20s. They were among 29 young Atlanta blacks whose slayings and disappearances between 1979 and 1981 were investigated by a special police task force.
Whatley said the request will be based at least partly on ″new law enforcement documents obtained.″
USA Today reported Monday that the documents include a confidential police memo indicating that an informant told authorities the Ku Klux Klan was involved in the string of killings or disappearances.
Whatley told The Associated Press: ″That is correct, but I would rather not talk about specifics until we file″ the petition.
William Kunstler, who also represents Williams, said the petition will argue that the confidential memo was not provided to Williams’ attorneys before his trial.
″The issue is not whether they checked out anything (about the KKK report),″ Kunstler said. ″The issue is whether the defense was told. ... They withheld this from the defense.″
USA Today said the internal memos show an informant came to police after the death of a 14-year-old boy and told police that a Klansman had bragged beforehand he would kill the child.
The prosecutor in the case, Fulton County District Attorney Lewis Slaton, said the tip was investigated but no Klan link to the murders was found. Slaton denied that documents were kept from the defense and attacked the credibility of the informant who provided the memos, the newspaper said.
Chet Dettlinger, an Atlanta private investigator who wrote a book about the Williams case, said the document about a possible Klan connection was just one of many documents not provided to the defense team.
″I think basically the real issue has nothing to do with the Ku Klux Klan. It has to do with whether the defense was provided with all the information required″ under law, he said. ″I certainly wouldn’t get too excited about the fact that the Ku Klux Klan was mentioned.″
Williams was convicted in the slayings of Nathaniel Cater and Jimmy Ray Payne, but Superior Court Judge Clarence Cooper permitted evidence connected with 10 other slayings to be entered at the trial to show the two deaths were part of a larger pattern of killings.
The conviction was upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court in 1983.
After Williams was convicted, officials investigating the slayings closed the books on 22 of them, saying they believed Williams was to blame.