Defense Expert in Williams Case Questions Suspect's Claim

The first defense witness in Jayson Williams' (search) manslaughter case Wednesday cast doubt on the prosecution's claim that the former NBA star tried to put his shotgun in the hands of a chauffeur after fatally shooting the man.

Dr. Michael Baden (search), medical examiner for the New York State Police, said bloodstains on Costas "Gus" Christofi's right palm appeared undisturbed, making it unlikely a weapon was put in that hand.

But the nationally known pathologist also said that smeared blood was found on fingers of both hands, and that could have occurred when he fell on the carpet or from the gun.

Four prosecution witnesses said Williams tried to place the weapon in Christofi's hands moments after the driver was shot in the master bedroom. They testified that Williams took a loaded shotgun from a cabinet, faced and swore at Christofi, and then held the gun in one hand and snapped it shut, after which it fired.

Williams, 36, is charged with aggravated manslaughter in the February 2002 shooting. He is also charged with altering evidence and persuading his houseguests to lie by saying they were downstairs when Christofi shot himself.

Williams' attorneys say the shooting was an accident, and that Williams had not realized Christofi had entered the room and was standing in front of him.

The shooting occurred after Williams and some friends went to a Harlem Globetrotters (search) game in Bethlehem, Pa. Four Globetrotters later went to Williams' mansion in Alexandria Township, including Williams' former teammate Benoit Benjamin, the only witness to testify that he saw Williams pull the trigger.

Baden disputed Benjamin's account, saying no spattered blood was found on Benjamin, even though blood was found on objects near where Benjamin said he had been standing.

The testimony was the first since March 17, when the prosecution rested after calling 36 witnesses.

Williams could be sentenced to up to 55 years in prison if convicted of all eight counts against him. The least of the charges carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison, but would likely result in probation.

Williams retired from the New Jersey Nets in 2000 after a decade in the NBA, unable to overcome a broken leg suffered a year earlier in a collision with a teammate. He was suspended from his job as an NBA analyst for NBC after the shooting.