Prosecutors want retrial for manslaughter charge

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Jayson Williams cannot be retried on a reckless manslaughter charge in the shooting death of a hired driver because a jury already acquitted him of three other charges resulting from the same shotgun blast, a lawyer for the former NBA star said Tuesday.

Williams, 37, has remained free on bail since his April 30, 2004, conviction on four charges stemming from a failed attempt to cover up the fatal shooting.

While the Somerset County jury acquitted him of the most serious charges, including aggravated manslaughter, it could not reach a verdict on a reckless manslaughter charge. Prosecutors are seeking a retrial.

Williams lawyer Joseph A. Hayden Jr. told an appellate panel Tuesday that the same conduct that a jury found insufficient to convict Williams of aggravated manslaughter, aggravated assault and a weapons charge is the same conduct at the heart of the reckless manslaughter charge.

"Under these facts, it's unequitable to allow the state to have another bite of the apple," Hayden said, arguing that a retrial would violate Williams' right against double jeopardy.

First Assistant Hunterdon County Prosecutor Steven Lember said those three charges required the jury to find "manifest indifference" to human life by Williams, a higher standard than required for reckless manslaughter.

Lember said the jury, which voted 8-4 to acquit on reckless manslaughter, had a different view of how that charge compared to the three on which they acquitted Williams.

The panel heard about 90 minutes of argument on the reckless manslaughter question and other issues and is expected to take several months before ruling. Williams and his wife, Tanya, sat in the back of the 30-seat courtroom during the hearing but did not speak to reporters as they left.

The defense, if it cannot prevent a retrial, asked the appellate panel to limit what evidence is presented.

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. Reckless manslaughter carries up to 10 years in prison.