No Oral Arguments in Case that May Have Driven Eric Williams to Kill in Kaufman County

It was always one of the pieces in Eric Williams' story that didn't quite fit a narrative with an otherwise tidy motive for murder. The disgraced former justice of the peace had appealed his April 2012 conviction on burglary charges, prosecuted vigorously by slain Kaufman County District Attorney Mike McLelland and his most experienced prosecutor, Mark Hasse.

Surveillance cameras in the Kaufman sub-courthouse caught Williams walking out with three computer monitors in 2011. He had always maintained his innocence, claiming he had taken them for county business. A jury thought otherwise. McLelland pleaded with the judge to sentence Williams to two years in prison -- the maximum allowable under the law. "He's a man bereft of honor," he said.

See also: The Killings in Kaufman

The judge gave Williams two years probation instead, but the verdict did its intended work, stripping Williams of his livelihood. He lost his law license and the elected position he'd held for less than half a year. "My life has taken a drastic turn," he wrote in a presentencing report, in which he called his prosecution a misunderstanding that had spiraled out of control.

By all accounts, Williams was optimistic about his chances before the Fifth Court of Appeals in Dallas. His attorney, David Sergi, had previously told The Dallas Morning News that Williams saw it as a chance to repair his damaged reputation. So why, then, would he put his second chance at risk by seeking revenge against the men who ruined his law practice, his budding political career, his life?

Investigators believe that with the assistance of his wife, Kim, Williams carried out the carefully executed killings of McLelland and his wife, Cynthia, on March 30, and Hasse on January 31. We unpacked the bizarre tale inlast week's cover story. The Williamses now sit in jail on bonds set at more than $30 million, collectively.

It didn't make sense to Jenny Parks, an attorney and friend of Williams, who spoke with him after Hasse's murder. The state to this day hasn't filed a response to Williams' brief to the appeals court. "He said, 'Jenny, why would I have anything to do with that? The county didn't file its response. All this may be overturned. I have no reason to kill Mark [Hasse],'" she recalled.

"Two days before Mark was killed, he got word they'd hear his oral argument."

Which brings us to the news out of the appeals court. Williams' former attorney has filed notice that he does not intend to make oral arguments, a key step in the appeal process. With a capital charge and a case in which the death penalty will almost certainly be sought, he may no longer be so bent on finding redemption from a misdemeanor conviction.

KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Brantley Hargrove