As attorney Michael Mears slammed his fist on the lectern to simulate the sounds Augustus Williams said he heard as a man was beaten to death, those in the courtroom cringed and Mr. Williams insisted Wednesday he never moved to intervene.
He didn't know if the blows were killing Martinez real estate agent Stan White or his best friend of 16 years, William Lumpkin. But Mr. Williams testified Wednesday that he remained sitting, smoking cigarettes and reading the newspaper on the front porch of Mr. Lumpkin's downtown Augusta law office Sept. 2, 1996.
"I didn't say it made sense, that was just the case," Mr. Williams testified in Mr. Lumpkin's capital murder trial in Richmond County Superior Court.
Mr. Lumpkin, 52, has pleaded not guilty to murder and theft. Testimony in his trial continues today.
"Of course it does not make sense to you, but it did to me," Mr. Williams said. For more than 30 minutes as he sat on the front porch of Mr. Lumpkin's downtown Augusta law office, Mr. Williams felt the vibration of blows through the floor, listened to pleas for help and the sounds of "dull thugs," he testified.
"Like this?" Mr. Mears asked Mr. Williams as he slammed his hand on the lectern. "No, like the sound of a sandbag ... from over your head," Mr. Williams responded. "Like this?" And he raised his left hand over his head and slammed it on the lectern again. "Yes," Mr. Williams said.
"For 10 minutes ... and you just sat there?" Mr. Mears asked as he pounded again, then five more times. No, Mr. Williams testified, he didn't move, didn't look through the window to see who was hitting whom, or offer any help, or run.
For slightly over 10 hours Tuesday and Wednesday, Mr. Williams gave his account of what happened Sept. 2: that Mr. Lumpkin plotted Mr. White's demise, assembled the tools to carry out the plan and executed it that day at his Courthouse Lane law office.
Afterward, Mr. Williams testified, he helped Mr. Lumpkin drag a wrapped body from the office and put it in the trunk of Mr. Lumpkin's car, and then watched as Mr. Lumpkin disposed of incriminating evidence -- evidence Mr. Williams testified he helped Richmond County sheriff's investigators collect Sept. 5, 1996.
Under cross-examination Mr. Williams testified he found nothing strange about the fact that the evidence -- a sock, sand from a sandbag and Mr. White's car -- was taken from downtown Augusta and dropped off within walking distance of Mr. Lumpkin's Graystone Place home in Evans.
After disposing of the items, Mr. Lumpkin drove Mr. Williams to his home in Hephzibah, he testified. Mr. White's body still was in the trunk, and Mr. Lumpkin told him he had the perfect place to hide it about 60 miles away, Mr. Williams testified.
Mr. White's body was found Sept. 5 on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River, just across from Screven County, Ga. Mr. White, 64, a retired Army veteran, was positively identified from dental records, a South Carolina expert in forensic dentistry testified Wednesday.
Mr. Williams testified that he became frantic to reach state Sen. Charles Walker and Augusta Commissioner Freddie Handy because he feared Mr. Lumpkin would kill him or his sons, not because of their ownership of a newspaper and radio station, respectively.
"Ultimately, I told him (Mr. Handy) that ... I had a story that had significant value. I'm a long way from being stupid. ... It crossed my mind. It appeared to have value," Mr. Williams testified.
He left his sons alone in the house and called his mother to come pick him up and drive him around town Sept. 3, 1996, but Mr. Williams said his primary concern was safety. He acknowledged that night in an Aiken motel room he made many telephone calls to media sources such as a local television news station, CNN Headline News, Oprah Winfrey, Montel Williams and Jerry Springer.
Mr. Lumpkin's attorney pressed Mr. Williams under cross-examination to explain why some inflammatory comments he attributed to Mr. Lumpkin -- such as "He was a tough old bastard. It's a good thing I was in shape." -- were not in either of two long tape-recorded statements he gave to sheriff's investigators. Mr. Williams insisted he did tell the officers but perhaps not during those interviews.
Mr. Williams denied he killed Mr. White after seeing the much larger man beating up Mr. Lumpkin that day, and then made up the story about Mr. Lumpkin to have a story to sell.
He also denied he made up a story to exact revenge on Mr. Lumpkin, who he believed threw his wife's defense in a murder trial to further the prosecutor's political ambitions. Vanessa Williams is serving a life sentence for the June, 8, 1991, murder of 39-year-old Levi Bryant.
Mr. Williams is serving a five-year prison sentence for theft and hindering the apprehension of a criminal -- Mr. Lumpkin. He originally was sentenced to probation, but the judge changed it to a prison sentence when Mr. Williams was charged with forgery and theft-related charges in North Augusta three months after he was placed on probation.
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