Schofield soldier gets life without parole

Naeem Williams (Courtroom sketch: Wayne Takazono)

Former Hawaii soldier Naeem Williams received a life sentence without parole for the death of his 5-year-old daughter.

After about seven full days of deliberations, jurors finally reached a decision Thursday, but the verdict wasn’t read until Friday morning because jurors said they were “emotionally drained.”

According to one juror, the count was 8-4, with the majority voting for the death penalty. Because they couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict, jurors had to give Williams life in prison.

Jurors KHON2 spoke with Friday talked about the difficulty of the decisions they had to make and expressed relief that this life-changing experience was finally over.

For Earlanne Leslie, finding justice for 5-year-old Talia Williams meant asking for her spiritual guidance.

“I was thinking about the little girl the whole time when I made my decision,” Leslie said. “This was very hard. Every night I would go home, I’d even pray that she would come to me and tell me which way to go.”

Putting a man’s life in their hands was undoubtedly a heavy burden. But eight of them were willing to vote on giving Williams the death penalty.

“I was leaning towards death. I’m not afraid to say that,” said juror Clarence Kaona. “I was on the wall. It was a last minute thing.”

Jurors say the hardest part wasn’t whether to give Williams the death penalty, it was having to look at pictures of the abuse during the testimony.

“The autopsy picture by far, that’s the most — those images just stick out in front of you,” Kaona said.

“I don’t think we’ll ever forget it when we see little kids,” Leslie said.

They also say they respected each other’s opinions and are at peace with the outcome.

“It’s going to affect me for the rest of my life,” Kaona said. “I have a four-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter. I look at her everyday, I see Talia, so it will be with me.”

In April, the same jury found Williams guilty of capital murder in his daughter Talia’s 2005 beating death. He said he beat the child often to discipline her for bathroom accidents.

Williams’ wife, Delilah, also admitted beating the girl and has been sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Naeem Williams’ death penalty trial was the first in the history of Hawaii’s statehood.

Hawaii’s territorial government abolished capital punishment in 1957, but Williams was tried in the federal justice system, which allows the death penalty.

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