Originally created 04/16/04

Judge rules Jayson Williams trial will continue, rejects request to throw out charges



SOMERVILLE, N.J. -- A judge ruled Thursday the Jayson Williams manslaughter trial will continue, turning aside a defense request to dismiss all charges against the retired NBA star. The defense is appealing.

State Superior Court Judge Edward Coleman rejected the defense argument that evidence withheld by the prosecution made it impossible for Williams to get a fair trial.

The prosecution maintained it unintentionally forgot to turn over notes and photographs from a weapons expert before the trial started, but the defense suffered no harm.

Coleman called the error "negligent" but said it did not harm the defense, noting defense experts did not change their opinions based on the new material. The judge also found there was no intentional concealment of evidence, and the situation can be corrected.

"The defendant has had this cloud of an indictment hanging over his head for two years," Coleman said. "He has a right to have this case decided by a fair-minded jury."

Coleman declined to halt the trial while the defense appeals his ruling, and defense attorneys said they would seek a delay from the appellate court.

Testimony was stopped more than two weeks ago because of the evidence dispute and is to resume Monday. Williams was not in court Thursday, following the birth of his second daughter Tuesday.

Williams, 36, is charged with recklessly handling the gun that killed his limousine driver, Costas "Gus" Christofi on Feb. 14, 2002. He also is accused of trying to make the shooting look like a suicide and persuading others to lie that Christofi, 55, shot himself.

The defense maintains the weapon, a Browning Citori double-barreled 12-gauge, fired accidentally when Williams snapped it shut.

The judge is expected to decide later Thursday which witnesses will testify when the trial resumes. Defense lawyer Joseph Hayden gave the judge the names of a half-dozen witnesses the defense would like to question again in light of the new evidence. The dispute over the evidence had arisen just after the defense rested its case

The defense also asked Coleman to ban prosecutor Steven Lember from participating in the trial, contending the prosecutor acted unethically. The judge said he would study the issue.