HONOLULU — Standing in front of a U.S. District Court jury Wednesday, former Schofield Barracks soldier Naeem J. Williams apologized and asked jurors, who last month found him guilty of capital murder in connection with the beating death of his 5-year-old daughter Talia, to spare his life.
He also admitted for the first time that he killed his daughter.
"Talia deserved a better father than me. Instead of helping and protecting Talia, I hurt and killed her," he said.
Williams, 34, is facing the death penalty for each of two counts of first-degree murder. One is for killing Talia in their military family quarters at Wheeler Army Airfield in July 2005 through child abuse. The other is for killing Talia after months of assault and torture.
During the guilt phase of the trial, the closest Williams came to admitting that he killed Talia was when he said he hit his daughter, she fell, didn't get up and later died.
Williams made his admission of killing his daughter Wednesday without the fear of further questioning from federal prosecutors.
In most U.S. jurisdictions, defendants who have been found guilty of a crime have the right to allocute, or speak to the court, before sentencing. Federal court rules in criminal proceedings require the courts to permit the defendant to speak or present any information to mitigate his sentence. Allocutions are not subject to cross-examination.
Williams has two other children, both of whom testified Wednesday that they have regular contact with their father and look forward to continuing their relationship with him.
At the time of Talia's death, Azrah, 9, was an infant and living with her father, mother Delilah Williams and half sister Talia in the same family quarters at Wheeler. "I talk to him a lot on the phone," she said of Williams.
Williams' parents have custody of Azrah in Clarksville, Tenn.
Khalief Means, 11, is the product of a relationship Williams had with his son's mother when he was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. Khalief lives with his mother in Atlanta.
"When I get to talk to him, it's really good. I love my dad," a tearful Khalief said.
Williams asked the jurors for the chance to be a good father to his remaining children.
"I'm asking that you let me live so that I can try to be that for Azrah and Khalief that I was not for Talia," he said.
Rosalyn Muse, Williams' mother, also testified Wednesday.
Witnesses in court proceedings are generally limited to answering questions from lawyers and are not allowed to make unprompted statements. When defense lawyers asked previous character witnesses whether they want the jury to spare Williams' life, most were limited to responding, "yes."
Muse responded, "I'm asking this jury to spare my son's life."
The jurors will return to court Friday to hear closing arguments on what factors prosecutors say weigh in favor of the death sentence and what factors defense lawyers say weigh against voting for death.