Trucker faces second trial on death penalty charges

| 4/11/2005

Prosecutors plan to retry truck driver Tyrone Williams on several charges that deadlocked a jury in March.

The Schenectady, NY, trucker was convicted by a jury March 23 in the smuggling deaths of 19 illegal immigrants in 2003. The jury temporarily deadlocked during deliberations, and the 34-year-old trucker was convicted on some of the charges – but not those that carried execution as a possible penalty.

Officials with the court confirmed April 11 that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Houston planned to refile those charges. Those included smuggling conspiracy charges, which can lead to a death sentence.

The case arose in 2003 when a group of more than 70 immigrants from Mexico and Central America were being transported in a tractor-trailer from south Texas to Houston.

Law-enforcement officials said that the truck driver – whom they identified as Williams – left the trailer in the early morning hours of May 14 of that year. As the heat in the trailer increased, 19 of those inside died – most from dehydration, hyperthermia and suffocation.

The victims – men, women and children – were apparently so desperate for air that they tried to claw through insulation on the back door.

Williams was convicted on 38 charges of transporting illegal immigrants, The Associated Press reported. However, the jury remained deadlocked on the rest of the 58 charges he faced.

Fourteen people were identified as suspects in the case; prosecutors have said most were part of the smuggling ring that brought the aliens into the country.

– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor