ESCONDIDO — The sentencing of a 46-year-old man convicted of torturing his wife was put on hold while the court investigates possible jury misconduct, a San Diego Superior Court judge ruled Sept. 11.
Erring on the side of caution, Judge Joan Weber said she would send out letters to the jurors on Tommy Lee Williams’ case asking them for permission to release their names to the attorneys so the matter could be investigated further.
Jurors who do not wish to have their contact information released will be asked to come to court Oct. 9 to explain their position.
The jury deliberated less than 10 hours back in April before returning guilty verdicts on all six counts in Williams’ case, which included attempted murder, torture and false imprisonment. The charges were in connection to his alleged Oct. 27, 2007, attack on his now ex-wife, Jeannette Lawrence, in her Escondido apartment.
The possible misconduct stems from an indication that during their deliberation, the jury may have had a discussion about Williams not testifying, defense attorney Herb Weston said. The issue surfaced after some jurors mentioned it to the investigative detective on the case following the verdict, he said.
Weston argued throughout the trial that Williams was the victim of a plot perpetrated by his ex-wife to have him murdered in Vista jail by her son’s skinhead gang.
Though, in her closing argument, Deputy District Attorney Marnie McGee likened Williams’ approximately 30-minute attack to that of a cat playing with a mouse. She told jurors that Williams didn’t just want to kill Lawrence, he wanted to make her pay for wanting to divorce him, and that his end goal was to have the attack be a murder-suicide.
The torture conviction alone carries a life in prison sentence.
Williams’ case is the second in recent months at the Superior Court in Vista to be examined for jury misconduct. Last month, Octavian Crishan, an elderly musician convicted of shooting his two roommates, killing one of them, had his conviction overturned. In Crishan’s case, it was determined the jury foreman inadvertently introduced extraneous information into the panel’s deliberation.
Crishan’s next scheduled court appearance is a Sept. 24 readiness conference. He also faces up to life in prison.
Both he and Williams remain in custody.