Hawaii jury considers state's first death penalty case for soldier

There’s something unusual going on in a courtroom out in Hawaii this month, and it has to do with the death penalty. What makes this case somewhat unique is the fact that The Aloha State banned capital punishment in 1957, before they even achieved full statehood status. This case, however, may transcend such restrictions because it deals with a former US soldier and a horrific crime which took place on a federal military base.

Jurors in Hawaii are set to begin considering whether a former soldier should be sentenced to death or life in prison for killing his 5-year-old daughter.

Jurors deliberated for about a day before announcing a verdict Friday finding Naeem Williams eligible for the death penalty in the first capital case in the history of Hawaii’s statehood.

The jury returns to court on Wednesday to begin hearing testimony about whether he will be sentenced to death or life in prison with no possibility for release.

That phase in the case will include a new round of opening statements and deliberations. The defense is expected to present witnesses testifying about Williams as a person while the prosecution is expected to continue arguing that the crime was especially heinous and deserving of the death penalty.

Unlike other capital punishment cases involving soldiers, such as those of Nidal Hassan and Ivan Lopez, the situation with Naeem Williams did not involve a mass attack by an insane lunatic or terrorism related to Islamic extremism. And while the former were certainly staggeringly evil, Williams’ case may, on some level be worse. This case dealt with the sustained abuse and eventual murder of their little girl, Talia, by Williams and the girl’s stepmother (who is also facing 20 years in jail). I will not paste in or repeat here the sickening details of the suffering this little girl endured at the hands of her supposed protectors, but I will warn you that if you follow the link and read them for yourself you may regret it. One can only hope and pray that the child has finally found peace in Heaven after such a short and horrifying life.

Since this nightmare took place on the military base grounds, the option for the death penalty is on the table and jurors are now considering it. Opponents of capital punishment are already raising questions as to whether or not this should be allowed to take place in Hawaii, which forbids the death penalty. But the law seems to be clear in situations like this, and federal law will take precedence over state rules. The question is whether or not the selected members of the jury are also staunch opponents of the death penalty and how much their decision might be impacted by media reports of the recent incident in Oklahoma.

If they eschew the death penalty, Williams is almost certainly looking at life behind bars without the possibility of parole. But reading the reports of what happened to that little girl, I think that is a far kinder fate than he deserves.