|Jayson Williams retrial delayed over racial slur fallout|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 03 January 2008 16:34|
State judiciary spokeswoman Winnie Comfort said the retrial would be delayed until at least May. Jury selection had been scheduled to begin on Monday.
The delay allows prosecutors time to appeal a December ruling by state Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman that they provide Williams' defense with all details surrounding a racial slur made by an officer investigating the 2002 shotgun killing of a hired driver.
Hunterdon County Prosecutor J. Patrick Barnes alerted the judge about the unspecified slur in a letter Oct. 18, telling him that a ``superior officer'' was accused of using a racial epithet to describe Williams in a meeting sometime before the 2004 trial. The letter did not name the officer or specify what was said.
The incident was referred to the state Division of Criminal Justice for investigation, which affirmed that the officer made the slur. The still-unnamed officer did not testify at the first trial and has since resigned.
Prosecutors have denied that they acted improperly by failing to notify the defense team about the slur or the resulting investigation.
Williams, 39, was convicted in 2004 of attempting to cover up the slaying of Costas ``Gus'' Christofi but was acquitted of the more serious charge of aggravated manslaughter. Jurors were unable to reach a verdict on the reckless manslaughter count, voting 8-4 in favor of acquittal, leading to a retrial on that single count.
Witnesses at the first trial said Williams took a 12-gauge shotgun from a case in his house and snapped it closed. The gun fired once and Christofi was struck in the chest.
The defense has maintained the shooting was an accident and that Williams panicked afterward.
A former star at St. John's, Williams played nine seasons in the NBA, including the last seven with the New Jersey Nets, and retired in 2000.
He remains free on bail and has yet to be sentenced on the four cover-up convictions.
Phone calls by The Associated Press to prosecutors and Williams' lawyers were not immediately returned on Thursday.
Christofi's death occurred in Hunterdon County, but the trial was moved to Somerville, in neighboring Somerset County.