Death penalty considered for human smuggler


Published: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 10, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

HOUSTON — Jurors deliberated about six hours Tuesday without deciding whether to impose a death sentence for the truck driver in the nation's deadliest human smuggling attempt.

The jury is expected to deliberate again today on whether to sentence Tyrone Williams to death or up to life in prison.

Williams, 35, was convicted last month on 58 counts of conspiracy, harboring and transporting immigrations in connection with the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants.

More than 70 immigrants from Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic were packed inside Williams' trailer in the failed 2003 smuggling attempt from South Texas to Houston.

Nineteen died from dehydration, overheating and suffocation after nearly four hours inside the ovenlike container.

Defense attorney Craig Washington has argued that Williams never intended for the immigrants to die. He said Williams gave water to the immigrants before he abandoned the container about 100 miles southwest of Houston. Williams also has admitted guilt and expressed remorse, signs he could be rehabilitated, he said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Rodriguez called Williams a "cold-hearted, callous, depraved" individual who deserves a death sentence.

The trial was the second for Williams, a Jamaican citizen who lived in Schenectady, N.Y. An appeals court overturned a verdict against him in 2005 when a jury convicted him on 38 transporting counts, but couldn't agree on his role in the smuggling attempt and were deadlocked on the 20 other counts.

Williams' sister, Coretta, told reporters Tuesday after jurors finished deliberations for the day that her brother is being made the scapegoat for the immigrants' deaths.

"He's really the person who is taking the fall for everything," she said.

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