JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered a new trial for David Jackson Williams, who was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to life in prison for killing a college student two years earlier in Oxford.
In a 5-4 decision, the court ruled the trial judge erred in not instructing the jury on Williams’ defense of assisted suicide.
Williams was convicted in Lafayette County Circuit Court in the death of Demetria Bracey of Jackson.
Williams and Bracey were students at the University of Mississippi. He claimed the stabbing death was part of a mutual suicide pact.
Bracey was a senior French major who was weeks from graduating when she was slain. Her body, with a stab wound in the chest, was found in a closet of Williams’ Oxford apartment.
Presiding Justice George C. Carlson Jr., in the majority decision, said the court record included several pieces evidence to relevant to Williams’ requested instruction, including conflicting expert testimony as to whether Bracey committed suicide, that Bracey and Williams were depressed people who were romantically involved with each other and had entered a suicide pact and that Williams had facilitated the enactment of the suicide pact by providing kitchen knives.
“At trial, evidence of a suicide pact between Bracey and Williams became a recurring theme,” Carlson said.
Carlson said looking at that evidence, a juror “could conclude that Williams and Bracey had entered into a suicide pact, an agreement whose fulfillment encouraged each party to commit suicide.”
“Moreover, the evidence also shows that Williams knowingly assisted Bracey by providing her with a knife to facilitate her suicide and a place (his closet) to commit the suicide together where their bodies would be hard to find. Consistent with this pact, Williams had marks on his body indicative of failed attempts to commit suicide,” Carlson said.
Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., joined by three other justices, said Williams had to demonstrate two things to get an assisted-suicide instruction — that Bracey had committed suicide and that he had helped.
“The only evidence Williams presented at trial to support his assisted-suicide theory was that he and Bracey had formed a mutual agreement to commit suicide together — a suicide pact. Further, for us to interpret the meaning of an alleged suicide pact between these two people — did she enter it because he forced her, or did she already intend to commit suicide — requires a level of speculation not allowed by our law,” Waller said.
The Associated Press