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Driver in migrant deaths faces death again

A truck driver convicted for his role in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants he was smuggling across Texas in a sweltering trailer will face the death penalty again in a new trial, prosecutors said on Monday.
/ Source: Reuters

A truck driver convicted last month for his role in the deaths of 19 illegal immigrants he was smuggling across Texas in a sweltering trailer will face the death penalty again in a new trial, prosecutors said on Monday.

A jury found Tyrone Williams, 34, guilty of transporting illegal immigrants but deadlocked on 20 other charges that could have sent him to the death chamber in the deadliest U.S. immigrant-smuggling tragedy.

In a hearing on Monday, prosecutors told U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore they will retry Williams on a conspiracy charge that could result in lethal injection.

Government lawyers have not decided whether to ask Gilmore to retry Williams, himself an immigrant from Jamaica, on 19 other counts that also could carry a death sentence.

Williams was convicted on those counts last month, but jurors did not answer questions about Williams’ level of responsibility that could have sent him to death row.

Gilmore told prosecutors she considered the matter closed, meaning Williams faced no more than 20 years for each of the 38 counts on which he was convicted. But she invited prosecutors to try changing her mind with legal briefs.

Death in Victoria
Williams picked up at least 75 immigrants near the U.S.-Mexico border and abandoned them in the sweltering trailer of his truck in Victoria, Texas, 90 miles southwest of Houston. He was paid $7,500 to make the trip.

The dead succumbed to asphyxiation and hyperthermia. The truck had a refrigeration unit that was not turned on, and survivors told the jury the desperate immigrants tried to tear holes in the truck and knocked out the back lights to signal their distress to other drivers.

Williams abandoned the immigrants when he discovered they were dying, according to testimony in the trial.

Three accused co-conspirators are scheduled for trial on Oct. 17. If prosecutors decide to pursue the death penalty against them, Gilmore said Williams will join them.

If Williams remains the only one among 14 defendants to face death, his trial is set for Dec. 5.