New trial set for driver in Texas trailer deaths case

| 5/15/2006

A retrial for Tyrone Williams, the truck driver accused in the smuggling deaths of 19 illegal immigrants, has been ordered by a federal appeals court.

The Houston Chronicle reported that no date has been set for the retrial, but it will be assigned to a new judge by the 5th Circuit Court of appeals in Houston.

Williams, a Jamaican-born immigrant, is accused of driving a truck with more than 70 illegal immigrants inside set to be hauled to Houston. The trailer was later abandoned at a truck stop. Inside the trailer, temperatures reached as high as 173 degrees, and 17 of the people inside died. Two more died at a hospital later.

In March 2005, Williams was convicted of 38 of the 58 smuggling counts. The jury in that trial was deadlocked on the rest, leading prosecutors to pursue a retrial on all 58 charges.

Williams is facing the death penalty in 58 counts of transporting illegal immigrants.

Earlier this year, three other people involved in the case were convicted of conspiracy to harbor and transport illegal immigrants and several other counts. All could face sentences of life in prison.

The three – Victor Sanchez Rodriguez, his wife Emma Sapata Rodriguez and her half-sister, Rosa Sarrata Gonzalez – were accused of hiding and transporting some of the immigrants before they were loaded onto the trailer in South Texas.