Jury selection is underway for the first death penalty trial in the state of Hawaii.
Capital punishment was abolished in Hawaii in 1957, but the U.S. attorney's office is seeking the federal death penalty in the trial of Naeem Williams who is accused of beating his five-year-old daughter to death in 2005.
Williams, an Army specialist who was stationed in Hawaii at the time, had obtained custody of his daughter, Talia, only seven months before her death. The two lived in base housing on Wheeler Army Airfield along with Williams's wife, Delilha Williams, and prosecutors claim the young girl endured months of abuse at the hands of both caregivers.
In July of 2005, Talia died from blunt-force trauma to her head, and an autopsy report showed she suffered from "battered child syndrome."
Court documents reveal that Talia’s room had no mattress, no blankets and no furniture, and that “blood spatters could be seen throughout the Williams residence.” Talia’s room had “blood splatters on the walls … caused by Naeem Williams ‘whipping’ Talia with his belt on Talia’s back ‘bursting open’ the scars.”
Williams also allegedly duct-taped Talia to a bed post on more than one occasion, covering her eyes and mouth with duct tape — “so she couldn’t scream” or see — and then whipped the young girl with a belt “for more an hour at a time.”
Delilha Williams told FBI agents that she had been "stomping on Talia," before the girl died, telling her that she hated Talia, that she was stupid and that she had ruined Delilha's life.
Delilha pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and is currently serving a sentence of 20 years. She is expected to testify against Spc. Williams.
Talia's biological mother, Tarshia Williams, won the right to sue the U.S. Army in 2010 for failing to protect her daughter after obvious signs of abuse. The Army usually handles instances of child abuse through the military police and the Army Family Advocacy Program, but, according to court documents, even an Army major general noted that, in Talia's case, there was "a series of missed opportunities to potentially prevent the death of the child."
Military police and social workers were alerted about possible abuse at the Williams home four times in the six months leading up to Talia's death.