HOUSTON – A jury in the trial of a man accused of driving and abandoning an airtight tractor-trailer packed with more than 70 illegal immigrants ended its second day of deliberations without reaching a verdict.
Jurors were scheduled to resume deliberations on Wednesday in the trial of Tyrone Williams (search), who is charged with 58 counts of conspiracy, harboring and transporting immigrants. He faces the death penalty if convicted for his role in the May 2003 smuggling attempt in which 19 of the passengers died.
Williams is accused of ignoring the cries of the immigrants inside the stifling trailer before abandoning it about 100 miles southwest of Houston (search). Seventeen people died inside the trailer; two others died later.
Williams' attorney, Craig Washington, has said his client was guilty of transporting the immigrants, but that other members of the smuggling ring were responsible for the deaths because they loaded the trailer with too many people.
Williams, 34, a Jamaican citizen who lives in Schenectady (search), N.Y., is the only one of 14 defendants in the case facing the death penalty. Federal law allows capital punishment in fatal smuggling cases.
Earlier Tuesday, jurors asked U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore if they needed to decide whether Williams intended to harm or endanger the victims during the smuggling attempt. Gilmore responded they only needed to decide whether Williams caused the immigrants to be placed in harm's way, regardless of his intentions.
"That is the issue at hand. I understand what they are struggling with," Gilmore said.