NEWARK, N.J. – Former NBA star Jayson Williams can be retried on a reckless manslaughter charge stemming from the shooting death of a hired driver at the player's estate, an appeals court ruled Friday.
The former New Jersey Nets star had sought to avoid a second trial, contending that it would be double jeopardy.
Williams, 38, has remained free on bail since his April 30, 2004 conviction on four charges stemming from a failed attempt to cover up the 2002 fatal shooting at the mansion he owned.
The jury acquitted Williams of the most serious offense, aggravated manslaughter, but deadlocked on the charge of reckless manslaughter.
Williams spokeswoman Judy Smith said Friday that defense lawyers plan to appeal the ruling.
Lawyers for both sides have been gagged by the trial judge. Prosecutor Steven C. Lember, who tried the case, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
Prosecutors said Williams, who retired from the Nets in 2000, was handling the gun recklessly when it went off and killed Costas "Gus" Christofi, 55. The defense maintained the shooting was an accident, and that Williams panicked afterward.
In a 19-page opinion, the three-judge appeals panel said it was "simply not possible in this case to determine which portions of the evidence the jury relied on to support its verdict of acquittal" on the top charge, aggravated manslaughter.
The sentencing on the four cover-up charges has been on hold until the retrial issue and other matters are resolved. Williams also plans to appeal those convictions.
Collectively, the four charges carry up to 13 years in prison, but the actual term could range from probation to about five years. If convicted, reckless manslaughter carries up to 10 years in prison.