Tuesday, April 22, 2003

New motions filed in Williams manslaughter case

By Sheila Hotchkin
The Associated Press

TRENTON, N.J. - Jayson Williams' attorneys want a racial and ethnic breakdown of the grand jurors who indicted the former NBA star in the shooting death of a limousine driver.

Williams' attorneys said Monday want letters printed on court stationery and sent to grand jurors, asking whether they are black, white or another race, and whether they are Hispanic.

The lawyers said they need those numbers to know whether one race or ethnicity is routinely excluded from grand juries in Hunterdon County, and the information would be central to any challenge in Williams' case.

"The United States and New Jersey Constitutions require not only that the grand jury be summoned according to law, but also that the grand jury represents a fair cross-section of the community," defense lawyers said in one of two motions filed in Superior Court in Flemington.

Defense lawyers also asked to have charges from the shooting considered separately from those dealing with Williams' actions afterward. They said jurors would be prejudiced by accusations that Williams tried to make the shotgun blast that killed Costas Christofi look self-inflicted.

The defense made the same request last fall, but a new indictment has since replaced the original and motions must be resubmitted.

Judge Edward Coleman has asked both sides to submit motions by May 20 and said a trial could begin in mid-September, depending on how quickly motions are settled. Williams' lawyers said more are on the way.

"This is our first of many motions," defense lawyers Billy Martin and Joseph Hayden said in a statement. "We plan to intensely scrutinize and vigorously challenge every aspect of the case to prove his innocence."

First Assistant Hunterdon County Prosecutor Steven C. Lember was on vacation Monday and could not be reached for comment.

The 35-year-old Williams is accused of recklessly handling the shotgun that killed Christofi on Feb. 14, 2002, at Williams' home in Alexandria Township. He could face more than 50 years in prison if convicted on all charges, the most serious of which is aggravated manslaughter.

The 6-foot-10 Williams was among the NBA's best rebounders when leg injuries led to his retirement from the New Jersey Nets in 2000. After the shooting, he was suspended from his job as an NBA analyst for NBC.

Fennis Dembo shoots, kills home intruder

SAN ANTONIO - The shooting death of a home intruder by former basketball player Fennis Dembo was under investigation, although police said Monday the man appeared to be a burglar.

Dembo was awakened early Sunday by a family member who heard someone inside the house, said Sgt. Gabe Trevino, a police spokesman. The 37-year-old Dembo told the man to stop before shooting at him several times, according to a police report.

The unidentified intruder, who was standing in the front doorway, was shot in the head, chest and arm, Trevino said.

Dembo played high school basketball in San Antonio before going to Wyoming. He was chosen in the second round of the 1988 NBA draft and played one season for the Detroit Pistons.

He later played in the Continental Basketball Association and in Europe.

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