Trials & Litigation

Was Killing Outside Courthouse First-Degree Murder? Manslaughter? Case Goes to Jury


The question that a jury must soon decide is not whether community leader Cleaven Williams stabbed his pregnant wife to death outside a Baltimore courthouse in 2008, minutes after she filed for a protective order.

Even his own lawyer admits that he did. But his intent at the time will help determine whether a crime ranging from manslaughter to first-degree murder may have been committed, according to the Baltimore Sun and WBAL.

“There are different degrees of homicide,” his lawyer, Melissa Phinn, told the jury last week. Her client has also been charged with openly carrying a deadly weapon with intent to injure.

As closing arguments in the case concluded this morning, lawyers including Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein sat in the audience watching, reports another Baltmore Sun article.

Williams’ lawyer argued that the slaying of his wife of a decade was unintentional manslaughter provoked by his rage over her mistreatment of him.

Prosecutor Kevin Wiggins asked for a murder one conviction, saying that blaming the victim is a common tactic and calling Williams a “controlled, selfish, narcissistic, abusive adulterer.”

Little has been said about the case outside of court because of a gag order.

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