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Williams Faces Life Sentence in Retrial

Courts: Prosecutors decide to drop death penalty bid after hung jury in case of man accused of killing two witnesses in West Hills.

June 19, 2001|CAITLIN LIU | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Prosecutors said Monday they will no longer seek capital punishment for a man accused of killing two witnesses, citing allegations of misconduct against one of their own attorneys.

Randall Williams, whose first trial ended last month in a hung jury, will now face a maximum possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole in his retrial in the 1998 shooting deaths of Jamie Navaroli and April Mahoney.

"A lot of it had to do with how the [first] trial went," said Sandi Gibbons, spokeswoman for the L.A. County district attorney's office. "The trial was not going particularly well because of allegations that were made regarding discovery."

Late in Williams' trial, which lasted nearly four months, a law clerk for the prosecution told a supervisor that Deputy Dist. Atty. Michael Duarte had concealed from defense attorneys statements made by a key prosecution witness. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Terry A. Green told jurors the prosecutor's action was "without lawful justification and in violation of a specific court order that required [prosecutors] to turn over all witness statements." Next month, the judge will decide whether Duarte should be held in contempt.

The decision to spare Williams a possible death penalty was made by Assistant Dist. Atty. Peter Bozanich, who earlier decided against seeking capital punishment for co-defendant Kenneth Leighton. A separate jury convicted Leighton last month of first-degree murder.

Navaroli and Mahoney were found shot execution-style in November 1998 in West Hills. Prosecutors argued that Leighton wanted Navaroli and Mahoney dead because they were about to testify against him in a burglary case, alleging he enlisted his friend Williams to shoot the couple.

In making the decision, Bozanich took into consideration that Leighton did not fire the fatal shots, Gibbons said. In Williams' case, Bozanich was swayed by the fact that prosecutors face an uphill battle after one hung jury.

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