Williams Found Guilty
February 7, 2019
Why did the jury decide Brooklyn Williams was guilty of second degree murder and deserves to spend 25 years in prison for just sitting in a car while her passenger shot and killed a Tecumseh police officer?
Because, prosecutor Pattye High argued in her closing, "But for her, Justin Terney would still be here. She could have stopped it."
Williams, 25, sat stone-faced as the jury delivered the guilty verdict early Friday afternoon, Feb. 1, after three days of testimony in Pottawatomie County District Court. It was her taillight that was out, but it was her passenger, Byron Shepard, who is charged with shooting Terney in the foot pursuit following the traffic stop on Benson Park Road in March 2017.
Many observers expected the sentencing recommendation to be on the low end of the possible 10 years to life, but prosecutor Travis White told the jury that "This is a not a minimum case. She should get 22 years minimum, the age of Justin Terney when he gave his life."
High and White, who are with the Dist. 21 (Cleveland County) District Attorney's Office, shared prosecution in the case. Richard Smothermon, former Dist. 23 (Pottawatomie and Lincoln counties) district attorney, recused his office from the case. They, along with Dist. 21 DA Greg Mashburn, will also handle Shepard's first degree murder trial Nov. 4, which could result in the death penalty.
Testimony in the Williams' case ended Thursday when the state rested its case. After calling Williams to the stand and asking her if she was waiving her right to testify, which she did, the defense also rested. Williams' attorney, Larry Monard, called no witnesses in her behalf.
For a while it looked like the case would go to the jury on Thursday, but extensive debate on the jury instructions pushed that to Friday. Those discussions were in chambers, but District Judge John Canavan Jr. said Friday morning in open court that the parties were concerned about the wording of an instruction about the "connection between the felony and the victim's death."
When that was finally worked out, Canavan read a long list of instructions to the jury - and gave them printed copies - before the closing arguments. He noted that if convicted, Williams would be required to serve 85 percent of her sentence before being eligible for parole.
White presented his closing argument first, saying the evidence was "overwhelming" against Williams. "I'm counting on you to apply common sense," said White.
He reminded the jury that the testimony showed Williams had been repeatedly warned to stay away from Shepard, who was wanted by law enforcement. Her phone records showed she even accessed his online court records in early March.
"She made choices; she provided shelter," White said. "She transported him in her car." There was no question she knew she was harboring a fugitive, he indicated.
Williams' attorney disputed that in his closing. "She was not harboring him," Monard said. "What felony did she commit? They want to argue she had an obligation" to give police Shepard's correct name, he said. Shepard gave police a false name during the traffic stop and was not correctly identified until the next day.
"She was not asked a question about Shepard," Monard pointed out. "She thinks he's going to jail because that's what he told her ... There's no connection with the shooting of Officer Terney."
High closed out the arguments with an impassioned closing that riveted the jury. "She harbored him," she said. "How do you think the conversation went in that car? Tammy Wynette would be proud of Brooklyn Williams for standing by her man.
"She had so many choices," High said. "What happened March 26 didn't have to happen. It was her choice. But for her, Justin Terney would still be here. She could have stopped it. She needs to spend the rest of her life in a cell."
The case went to the jury at 10:55 am, with most of the courtroom full of law enforcement officers, Terney family members and others convinced it would be a quick verdict. But at about 12:30 pm, everyone was told to go to lunch.
Soon after the return from lunch, at 1:25 pm, the jury returned with the verdict. Canavan said formal sentencing will be at 9 am March 13.
(Editor's Note: Last week's story on the opening day of testimony in the trial contained a couple of errors. Byron Shepard's trial will not be this summer, as reported, but is scheduled for Nov. 4. And Officer Terney was shot twice, not four times. We regret the errors.