August 28: The Williams’ Family Testifies, Part One

Yesterday (August 27) certainly had its elements of surrealism. A young soldier testified in court about the death of his adopted sister, testimony that will probably influence sending one or both of them to jail.

Joshua Williams Joshua Williams

HIs mother, Carri Williams, on trial for homicide, manslaughter and first degree child abuse, saw her firstborn and no doubt beloved child, after not having any contact with him since September of 20111.

Carri Williams (left) with her two public defenders Carri Williams (left) with her two public defenders

And then Joshua’s dad took the stand to say how responsible and ashamed he feels for Hana’s death, going on to say that, really, most of the disciplinary decisions were Carri’s, and he really wishes now he had done more to help.

You can read about yesterday’s events here and here.

Larry Williams, with his public defender Rachel Forde Larry Williams, with his public defender Rachel Forde

While there has been strong competition in the last few weeks for this title (including yesterday), today had to count as An Incredibly Surreal Day in the trial of Larry and Carri Williams.

Today (August 28) Larry Williams testified, followed by Carri’s sister, mother, and father, and then by Carri herself. Oh my.

Larry Williams Finishes Up

The testimony began with a recap of sorts (I’ve decided lawyers like recaps. With at least 3 questioning each witness in the trial, it’s not unusual to hear: “I’d like to go over a few points you just discussed.”)There was fairly lengthy discussion of when in 2011 Larry stopped hitting (or “correcting”) Hana and Immanuel. Some things didn’t change that year. They kept feeding leftovers to Hana and Immanuel outside, they kept locking Hana in the closet, and Hana kept using the Port-a-Potty and taking showers outside. Larry reiterated that he felt things needed to change, and that’s why he stopped spanking Hana and Immanuel. “What we were doing wasn’t working.”

The prosecutor asked him if the disciplinary techniques were based on religious beliefs? Larry responded, “I guess you could say that.” Carri’s defense attorney asked where Larry and Carri had learned these techniques: “From a book.” And that was the extent of any discussion regarding Christianity and its application in the Williams’ household. (The book which most people feel the defense attorney was alluding to was “How To Train Up A Child,” by Michael Pearl, but it was not named.)

Larry didn’t remember a lot of things that may or may not have happened in 2011: if gospel music was played in the closet where Hana was locked, whether Larry stopped giving cold showers to Immanuel, whether he said that Carri or the kids couldn’t talk to Hana and Immanuel without permission, whether Hana was punished the first time she was caught stealing food.

He recalled telling Carri that he wasn’t going to spank anymore, but didn’t tell her not to. He considers himself the head of the household, but would never suggest she has to obey him, “under any circumstances.”

The testimony recapped a litany of Whose idea Was This? The list of ideas: putting Hana in the closet, serving leftovers, serving frozen food, sleeping in the barn, sleeping in the shower room, and using a Port-A-Potty out by the barn. All these ideas were Carri’s, according to Larry.

The lawyer asked: Did you come up with any ideas for discipline? Larry’s answer: “I don’t remember.”

And with that, the defense attorneys for Larry Williams rested.

That meant that Carri’s defense attorneys began calling their witnesses.

Next up: Carol Miller, Carrie’s sister

Carol and Carrie were always very close, and had a very normal, healthy relationship, according to Carol. Carol is envious of Larry and Carri’s relationship, which she described as “cordial” and “loving.”

Carol met Hana and Immanuel about a week after they arrived in the US from Ethiopia, which would mean around this time in August of 2008. All the kids were playing outside, she said, and Immanuel hit someone. Larry spoke with him (signed, since Immanuel is deaf, though one wonders how much sign language he would have learned after one week).

Carol was a bit shocked by Immanuel’s behavior: “We were raised where we weren’t allowed to hit at all.”

Carol was questioned at length about the scars all over Immanuel’s back and face, which she said were all present when she saw him that first time. She said both Larry and Carri were head of the household. Carol never saw any worse discipline than Immanuel being taken aside and spoken to.

Charlotte Miller, Carrie’s Mother

Charlotte has 17 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild. She and her husband visited Carri and her family many times. She didn’t know how often. “Who keeps count?”

At the same gathering that Carol described, Charlotte said Hana was quiet, looking around, “checking out who we are.” Immanuel, in contrast was aggressive: kicking, screaming, punching, She thought it was “odd that he was so violent.” Charlotte spoke loudly into the microphone. She said Immanuel was “mad and angry that be didn’t get the ball” in the game the kids were playing, and he let out a “blood curdling scream.” She acknowledged that he is deaf, and said she’d heard the sounds of deaf people before.

She said Immanuel was covered in scars: “many, many.” When asked when it was that she had seen the scars, she said it has been “2, or 3, or 5 years. Whatever. It’s hard to remember.” Of his eating habits, Charlotte said Immanuel ate like he’d never eaten before. Hana ate a lot too, 2 or 3 helpings. As to misbehavior on Hana’s part, Charlotte noticed that at meal times, Hana “would act like she was busy cleaning up, but she wasn’t really doing anything.”

Charlotte shared an anecdote about being the only one to see Hana one time suddenly fall to her knees, on the gravel area past the concrete slab. She said Hana, with a shocked look on her face, jumped up when she saw Charlotte, and ran into the barn.

(Maureen: I don’t know what to make of this story.)

When the prosecutor questioned her, Charlotte became more animated. She reiterated Immanuel’s violence and blood curdling screams. She said no one else kicked or struck him, and that his parents always stepped in and talked with Immanuel through sign language. Charlotte said, “My daughter taught him everything he knows.”

The prosecutor showed him photos of Immanuel’s scars, and then showed her another photo of (someone’s) legs with obvious scars. Defense attorneys, I believe, offered an objection, at the same time Charlotte herself became upset at being questioned about an unknown person’s scars, even yelling loudly “I object to this!”

Charlotte never saw Hana and Immanuel eating outside, or eating different foods, and did not recall Carri saying that she had spanked Hana with a switch.

George Miller, Carri’s Father

George is a retired police officer. He did not recall too much about Immanuel’s scars, and not too much about Immanuel’s problem of wetting himself. He said that Hana and Carri were very loving and affectionate with each other, and so were Immanuel and Carri. Hana’s demeanor did change over time, and Hana became more stand-offish, more rebellious, not cooperating.

If he had seen anything concerning in the Williams’ household, George said, he would have been compelled to report it, as an officer of the court.

My next post will be about Carri Williams’ testimony.

9 thoughts on “August 28: The Williams’ Family Testifies, Part One

  1. Hi-I’ve been a lurker while reading about the trial and I noticed you sometimes say that you don’t understand the technicalities of the lawyering going on (above-lawyers like to recap…) and while I’m obviously not there, I am an attorney and so I thought I’d try and clarify for you! (Unsolicited assistance, obviously, so it’s worth all you paid for it!). But the recaps you are referring to serve two purposes-1. It’s technically called “redirect”. It’s a chance for the sponsoring attorney (the one who called the witness to the stand) to clarify issues that might have gotten bogged down in various procedural objections (juries space out when legal jargon is used like in a procedure argument) and it’s also a chance for the attorney to simplify the issues and testimony given for the jury, and to get further testimony on issues brought up by opposing side in cross examination. The “recap” happens in closing argument. I try to be keenly aware that the jury is interrupting their life to be there, and they have little patience for “review”. 2. Trial strategies vary, and I’m not the end-all, but I think the fewer questions on redirect the better. Two ideas, tops, for the reason above. Not sure of their style up there! Thank you for sitting through this sadness and anger and telling us what’s happening! It cannot be easy, and one of the hallmarks of our justice system is its open nature, it doesn’t happen in secret, and you being there affirms and strengthens this! I’m doing my best to spread the word/memory of Hana down here in TX!

    • Thanks very much. Your information and perspective does shed light, and your insights are helpful. I’ve learned a lot over these last few weeks. I’m glad e have a legal system that allows for all sides (ideally) to be heard, and I do believe in the process, as frustrating and imperfect as it may be.

      Thanks also for sharing the word about Hana and Immanuel in Texas. I hope that other attorneys will look at this case as well, and consider ways to better protect children.

      Hoping hard for justice for Hana and Immanuel.

  2. Pingback: Williams Trial – Day 23: Testimony of Carri Williams Day 1 | Why Not Train A Child?

  3. Odd to describe a married couple’s relationship as “cordial” and “loving”. These 2 descriptors don’t really fit together, yet this does paint a picture of the nature of the family dynamics……conditional love based on compliance.

  4. The grandparents and sister’s testimony seem rather pointless. What point were the attorney’s they trying to make? The children who lived in the house said that a switch was used for spankings. Why would an outsider who did not live there full time (and therefore not see most of the daily happenings) have any idea whether or not this occurred? Them saying it didn’t shows nothing.

    The talk of food is so upsetting (eating a lot, taking second helpings). It shows absolutely no understanding of one of the most common behavior of children in international adoptions: food insecurity. These are children who don’t know if food will be available again. Of COURSE they are going to eat like that. And when the parents withhold food, of course, they will ‘steal’ food. Because they are being taught that just like in Africa, food in this new house is not guaranteed. These are survival instincts they learned over many years.

  5. Baffling to me that the grandfather was in law enforcement. I found niether the grandparents or the sisters testimony convincing and nothing but in denial and cover up for Carri. the Grandmothers testomoniy was just shameful. Talked about learned behavior passed on from one generation to another! Wasn’t it the very same grandma that provided them with a bigger switch?? Now it makes sense why the coroner had to contact law enforcement which I have read is rare and why it took four months for an arrest and the lowering of the bail. Carris fathers motto was to serve and protect but I guess that didnt apply to Hana. Odd that the grandma was implicated in the investigation for the bigger switch yet nothing in mentioned about the Granpa. Also makes perfect sence that they said Hana was 16 in the 911 call only someone in law enforcement would know laws like that. I’m surprised the cell phone records were never pulled SHAMEFUL AND EVIL!!!

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