Crime - Sacto 911

Retrial jury acquits Richard Williams of 1996 murder

Richard Alex Williams was acquitted late Monday by a jury in Sacramento Superior Court of first degree murder with special circumstances and two counts of attempted murder, after a federal judge threw out his convictions on those same charges 17 years ago, forcing a retrial.

Williams, now 37, was found guilty in 1998 of shooting from a car he was driving into another car and killing the driver of that other car while the two vehicles were stopped at the corner of 48th Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard near south Sacramento. The jury also found him guilty of the attempted murder of two passengers in the other car.

Williams was serving a sentence of life in prison without parole until last year, when the late U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton declared the conviction tainted by what Karlton ruled was a prosecutor’s race-based exclusion of a member of the jury pool. Williams is African American, as is the juror who was excluded.

A trial preceding the one in 1998 ended when the jury deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial, with two African American jurors voting for acquittal.

In his 2014 ruling, Karlton ordered Williams released or retried within 60 days. The judge, however, halted implementation of the order while the state pursued an appeal. In June, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Karlton’s decision.

In a telephone interview, Williams’ attorney, Victor Haltom, said Williams, against the judge’s wishes, gave the final argument for his own defense in the trial that ended Monday.

Three African American women and at least two other minority members were on the panel.

Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189