Defense is appealing judge's decision

Updated: April 15, 2004, 9:36 PM ET
Associated Press

SOMERVILLE, N.J. -- The judge in the Jayson Williams manslaughter trial refused to throw out the case against the former NBA star Thursday despite prosecutors' failure to turn over photographs and notes on the shotgun that killed a limousine driver.

The defense, which contends the gun misfired, had argued that the materials were critical to its case. The evidence, assembled by a prosecution weapons expert, was not turned over until after the defense had rested.

The defendant has had this cloud of an indictment hanging over his head for two years. He has a right to have this case decided by a fair-minded jury.
Judge Edward Coleman

But Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman called the error "negligent" and not a case of deliberate concealment of evidence. And he said the situation can be corrected by allowing the defense to reopen its case.

The jury, which has been out of court since April 1 because of the dispute over the withheld evidence, is scheduled to return for more testimony Monday.

Williams was not in court Thursday. His second daughter was born Tuesday.

His attorneys said they will appeal the judge's ruling and ask a higher court to halt the trial while it considers the case.

Williams is charged with killing Costas "Gus" Christofi, 55, in 2002 while fooling with the shotgun at his mansion. He is also charged with trying to make the shooting look like a suicide and persuading others to lie to the police.

Williams faces eight charges, the most serious of which is aggravated manslaughter. Collectively, they carry up to 55 years in prison.

The basketball star retired from the New Jersey Nets in 2000 after breaking his leg in a collision with a teammate. He was suspended from his job as an NBA analyst for NBC after the shooting.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press