HONOLULU — A former soldier facing the death penalty for the murder of his 5-year-old daughter apologized in court Wednesday and asked jurors to let him live.
Naeem Williams stood at a podium facing jurors and read a statement punctuated with long pauses and sniffles. The jury that convicted him of capital murder in April will determine if he’s sentenced to death or life in prison for the 2005 beating death.
“Talia deserved a better father than me,” he said. “Instead of helping and protecting Talia, I hurt and I killed her.”
The child once lived in Orangeburg.
Most of the jurors didn’t seem to show any reaction. One juror looked at the ceiling for most of the statement. They previously heard him testify that while he was stationed in Hawaii, he and Talia’s stepmother, Delilah Williams, beat the child almost daily. He said he was disciplining her for bathroom accidents and because of frustrations he was experiencing in his marriage.
If Naeem Williams is sentenced to death, it will be the first time in the history of Hawaii’s statehood because territorial leaders abolished capital punishment in 1957. But because the crime occurred on military property, the case is in federal court, where the death penalty is available.
Williams said he wants the chance to be a better father to his two other children, an 11-year-old son who lives in Georgia and a 9-year-old daughter who lives in Tennessee.
The children testified Wednesday that they enjoy their relationship with him even though he’s incarcerated thousands of miles away in Hawaii.
His daughter was born in Hawaii and was an infant when Talia was killed. She said she’s visited him at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center — the same facility where her mother is incarcerated because she pleaded guilty to her role in Talia’s death. Delilah Williams testified against her husband as part of a deal for a 20-year sentence.
Naeem Williams testified previously that he delayed calling 911 when Talia didn’t get up from one of his blows. He said he and his wife fretted over making sure a relative could pick up the infant.
The girl said she talks to her dad on the phone every Sunday and emails with him.
The boy said he talks to his father three to five times a month and emails with him a couple times a month.
They discuss what he wants for his birthday or Christmas, he said.
“We talk about a lot of stuff. We might talk about maybe who’s playing basketball or who’s your favorite team,” the soon-to-be-sixth-grader said. “We talk about stuff like that.”
The boy broke down in tears when asked about how he feels about his father.
“I love my dad,” he said. “I really need him.”