ANNAPOLIS – The Court of Special Appeals Wednesday upheld the denial of access to FBI files for a Maryland man convicted of killing two prominent tax lawyers.
Scotland Eugene Williams, who says the files were used to convict him, is serving a life sentence for the 1994 murders of Jose E. Trias and Julie N. Gilbert at their Severn River retreat.
One appeals court judge, Paul E. Alpert, dissented from a portion of the opinion saying Williams’ statement to his mother that he did not commit the murders should have been allowed at the trial. The error was so grievous that a new trial should have been ordered, Alpert wrote.
Williams was found guilty of murdering the couple in 1998 but requested a new trial based on seven areas where he said the lower court erred, including access to the FBI records. The FBI was called into the case to perform laboratory work and fingerprinting.
Williams argued the lower court unjustly denied him access to FBI files. But the three-judge panel supported the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County’s decision.
“There is no merit in the argument that state criminal charges must be dismissed because the defendant has been denied access to the records of a federal agency,” the opinion, written by Chief Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr., said. “The record of the state criminal proceeding shows that the defendant has failed or refused to comply with the applicable procedure for obtaining access to the federal records.”
Williams also argued that the lower court erred when the judge did not allow his mother to enter her full statement. According to the opinion, Williams’ mother told the court that Williams confessed to having the couple’s ATM card and car. But she did not get to tell the jury that Williams told her he did not kill the couple.
All of the judges agreed Williams’ mother should have been allowed to give the full conversation, but two of them supported the lower court’s decision saying the error did not influence the verdict.
“…(B)ecause I believe that the trial court’s error was indeed harmful, I would reverse for a new trial,” he wrote in his dissent.
Lawyers for the state of Maryland refused to comment on the case.
Williams’ lawyer did not return calls.
Williams won a previous appeal for this case. He was originally sentenced in 1995 to two death sentences plus 114 years in prison. The Court of Appeals granted him a new trial when it found the lower court erred by seizing evidence that wasn’t used in the crime.
At the new trial, Williams was again convicted of murdering the prominent couple, but was sentenced to life in prison. Police linked Williams to the crime using videotapes showing him using the couple’s credit card at an ATM machine.