ROCKWALL (CBSDFW.COM) – Prosecutors said that they may wrap up their part in the punishment phase of the Eric Williams capital murder trial by the end of the day on Tuesday. And his estranged wife, Kim, who is also charged in the murders, may testify against him.
Then, defense attorneys for Eric Williams will present their opening statements and witnesses in an effort to convince the jury to sentence Williams to life in prison, and spare him from the death penalty.
Judge Mike Snipes cautioned jurors that this case could continue through next week.
On Monday, witnesses to a shooting that rocked Kaufman County in 2013 gave dramatic testimony. Even though jury members convicted Williams last Thursday of murdering Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his wife, Cynthia McLelland, in March 2013, prosecutors told jurors that Williams also shot and killed McLelland’s top assistant district attorney two months earlier — for the very same reason.
Mark Hasse and Mike McLelland prosecuted Eric Williams for stealing county computer equipment in 2012, and a jury convicted him. As a result, Williams lost his job as a justice of the peace and his law license.
Williams has not stood trial yet for Hasse’s murder. But, on Monday, several witnesses told jurors what they saw on the morning of January 31, 2013, just one block away from the Kaufman County courthouse where Hasse was reporting for work.
Lenda Bush told jurors that, from her car, she saw someone wearing a long dark coat and a hooded mask gun down Hasse. “There was a shoving match. The shooter put the gun to Mark’s neck and shot down and I counted three shots, but I counted more shots than that.”
Bush said that she saw the victim fall to the ground and the shooter walking into a waiting getaway car — a Mercury Sable. She said that she followed the shooter’s vehicle in her car for two or two and a half blocks and realized it had no front or rear license plates. Bush said that she then went to help the victim, and realized that it was Hasse.
Martin Cerda also testified that he saw Hasse being shot. Through an interpreter, he said, just before the shooting, he heard Hasse plead for his life, telling the shooter, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Cerda said that the shooter then fired at Hasse. “He points the gun to the chest and fired. He falls down. He got close to him and fired again. He emptied the gun on him, pulled out another gun, started firing again.”
In all, prosecutors said that Hasse had five gunshot wounds, including a fatal one to the head.
Patricia Luna, another woman who was across the street at the time and heard the gunshots, fought back tears as she told jurors about that morning. “I’m sorry, but it’s hard,” she said.
Luna sobbed as she recalled the moment that she first saw Hasse. “I saw Mark dead,” Luna said. “There was another girl who tried to do CPR, but he was dead already. There was a lot of blood. I’ve never seen so much blood in my life.”
Luna, Cerda and Bush said that they could not identify the shooter because he was wearing a hooded mask. Prosecutors told jurors that Eric Williams was the shooter. They showed the jury the mask and guns that he allegedly used during the murder, which a dive team from the Texas Department of Public Safety discovered at the bottom of murky Lake Tawakoni.
The first Kaufman police officer who responded to the scene, Sgt. Jason Statsny, said that he was in the area when he heard eight gunshots. He described them as methodical, and demonstrated for jurors how they sounded by banging on the witness stand.
The officer said that, as soon as he arrived on scene, he relieved Bush, who was giving Hasse chest compressions. “I would tell him to hang in there, it was going to be okay, and then he would breathe again. I think he took a total of six or seven breaths while I was doing CPR.” Statsny said that Hasse would later take his final breath before paramedics arrived.
On Monday, Kaufman County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Barry Dyson told jurors that, after Hasse was shot, he saw Mike McLelland talking with Sheriff David Byrnes in the hospital. Later, Dyson said that the sheriff told him to go over to the home of Eric Williams and get a gun powder residue test from him.
Dyson said that Williams came to the door of his house with his arm in a sling, saying that he had gone for medicine for his wife. Dyson described Williams, saying, “He was a little sweaty. He just appeared flushed.” When Dyson said that he shook hands with Williams, he said it was “wet and clingy.” Williams did not have gun powder residue on his hands.
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