MOUNT VERNON — Lawyers for Larry Williams are asking for a new trial, saying there wasn’t enough proof to convict him and accusing his wife of lying under oath at their seven-week trial this summer.
Williams and his wife, Carri, were convicted Sept. 9 of first-degree manslaughter in the death of their adopted adolescent daughter, Hana, and first-degree assault of their younger adopted son.
Carri Williams was also convicted of homicide by abuse in Hana’s death, and her lawyers asked this week that her manslaughter conviction be vacated. The jury deadlocked on the homicide-by-abuse charge against Larry Williams, and prosecutors later dropped it.
On the witness stand early last month, each defendant contradicted the other on some points regarding the way they disciplined their adopted children, pinning certain ideas on each other, with Larry Williams claiming ignorance because he worked long hours away from home.
A sentencing memo filed Friday by Larry Williams’ public defenders restates these claims, saying their client thought Hana was disciplined no differently than their biological children.
Court documents and sworn testimony paint a picture of a girl wasting away from starvation, hit with switches and locked in a closet, sent outside as a punishment to the back yard where she ultimately succumbed to hypothermia.
The memo states Larry Williams, who was driving home from work when he learned Hana had collapsed, didn’t know what was happening in his home.
“If Larry had been home that day, Hana would never have been outside in the rain in the first place,” his lawyers wrote. “If Larry had been home that day, Hana would not have died.”
The memo asks Skagit County Superior Court Judge Susan Cook to arrest judgment on his convictions and grant a new trial. These motions usually must be made within 10 days of a verdict, but the defense lawyers asked the court to extend the time limit because of the trial’s length and complexity.
Larry Williams’ lawyers argue that prosecutors mismanaged the case by disclosing evidence and witnesses late, offering personal opinions at trial and preventing a defense witness from testifying. Defense lawyers brought these concerns up in objections at trial, but those were generally overruled.
The motion also claims misconduct by Skagit County Prosecutor Rich Weyrich in offering clothes and money to an Ethiopian prosecution witness. Weyrich and deputy prosecutor Rosemary Kaholokula denied wrongdoing, saying he offered these gifts only after the man’s testimony and did not mention them before that. As a consequence, Judge Cook struck the man’s testimony from the record.
Included with the memo is a note from Larry Williams’ mother, Dorothy Parson, calling her son a “fine man, wonderful husband and father.” He is honest, helps others and bursts with pride at all his children, she wrote.
Other letters to the judge from Williams family friends say the two pose no threat to society and that a long sentence would be costly and unnecessary.
One is a Sept. 19 letter from the Rev. Richard Long of Atonement Free Lutheran Church in Arlington, where the Williams family attended before they moved to Skagit County and adopted the two Ethiopian children.
“My personal conclusion is that, though Larry and Carri were inappropriate in many of their forms of discipline, they are not vicious and dangerous people,” he wrote.
Long went on to ask Judge Susan Cook to overturn the jury’s verdict, or at least be lenient in sentencing his former parishioners, for the sake of their seven biological children.
Larry and Carri Williams are scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday. Prosecutors are recommending Carri Williams serve 27 to 37 years in prison and her husband serve 14 to 19 years. Larry Williams could get credit for two years he spent in jail while the case was pending.
His lawyers are asking for five years instead, which they call “more than sufficient (and, frankly, disproportionately severe) punishment for his behavior in this case.”