SOMERVILLE, N.J. – The jury in the Jayson Williams (search) manslaughter trial began its first full day of deliberations Wednesday by hearing a readback of testimony relating to charges that the retired NBA (search) star attempted to cover up the shotgun death of a hired driver.
The jury had asked to hear the testimony in a note sent shortly before jurors were sent home Tuesday after deliberating about 4 hours.
The note asked for testimony from Williams friend John Gordnick and Harlem Globetrotters Paul Gaffney and Chris Morris about instructions Williams gave them after the shooting.
After being asked by the judge to clarify what they meant by "instructions," jurors sent a note saying they wanted testimony on who told Williams' houseguests to lie to police that they were downstairs when the shooting took place.
On Wednesday, the judge told the jury there was no such testimony from Gordnick, and then had the stenographer read several passages from Gaffney and Morris, who testified in March.
Morris testified that Williams told him, "We were supposed to be shooting pool at the time of the incident." The pool table is on the lower level of Williams' mansion; the bedroom where the shooting took place is on the floor above it.
Gaffney testified that when all the houseguests were assembled in the dining room by police, Williams told everyone to say "that we were downstairs" and not to say anything until his lawyer arrived. Gaffney also said that Kent Culuko, a would-be business partner of Williams, was the only one to personally give him that instruction: "Just say you were downstairs and everything will be all right."
The defense has portrayed Culuko as the cover-up mastermind. He pleaded guilty to evidence and witness tampering.
The question could relate to counts five and six of the eight-count indictment, hindering apprehension and tampering with witnesses. Those charges include accusations that Williams caused witnesses to lie and told those men, and others, to say they were downstairs.
The eight women and four men began work just before 11 a.m. Tuesday after being instructed by state Superior Court Judge Edward M. Coleman to consider all the evidence and testimony in the trial, which began Feb. 10 and included 43 witnesses.
The 12 panelists were chosen at random from the 15 jurors who finished the case; the three remaining became alternates. A 16th juror had been excused because of a death in the family.
The jury includes two blacks, both of whom are women. All three alternates were women, including the only other blacks who were empaneled.
Racial composition became an issue in January during jury selection. No black men were empaneled, which prompted the defense to accuse the prosecution of improperly excluding black men. The judge found no misconduct. Williams' father is black; his mother is white.
The jury has heard contrasting versions of what happened in the early hours of Feb. 14, 2002, when Costas "Gus" Christofi (search), 55, was shot and killed after a shotgun Williams was handling discharged.
The shooting happened in Williams' bedroom while he was giving friends and members of the Harlem Globetrotters a tour of his mansion in western New Jersey.
The prosecution charged that Williams was reckless when he took a loaded shotgun from a gun cabinet, cracked it open, turned, uttered an obscenity at Christofi and snapped it closed. It then fired once, sending 12 pellets into Christofi's chest.
Williams is also charged with attempting to cover up the shooting by placing the weapon in the dying man's hands and persuading others to say they were downstairs when Christofi shot himself.
The defense maintains the shooting was an accident, and that the gun malfunctioned. They contend Williams was so distraught after the shooting that he could not have organized a cover-up.
Williams, 36, faces eight charges, the most serious of which is aggravated manslaughter, which carries up to 30 years in prison.
Collectively, the charges carry up to 55 years in prison. The least of the charges carries a penalty of up to 18 months in prison, but likely would result in probation.
Williams had gone with some friends to see a Globetrotters game in Bethlehem, Pa. Christofi had driven four Globetrotters from the game to a restaurant near the Williams estate for dinner with the retired star and most of the group.
When Williams drove the Globetrotters to his estate after dinner, Christofi drove some of the friends there in his passenger van.
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.