Testimony continues for Kaufman County convicted killer's appeal

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A former justice of the peace who assassinated the Kaufman County district attorney and his wife is continuing his fight for a new trial.

Eric Williams was sentenced to death for killing Mike and Cynthia McLelland in 2013. He was also charged with the murder of county prosecutor Mark Hasse.

Prosecutors said the violent, execution-style murders were motivated by revenge. Williams lost his job and law license after McLelland and Hasse prosecuted him for theft and burglary.

Williams’ attorneys now argue his original defense counsel was ineffective. They are trying to convince the judge he deserves a new trial or new penalty phase for his conviction.

For a second day, Williams sat and listened intently to testimony. Among the latest witnesses called by his appellate team: Yolanda Barten, a Hardin County jail inmate. 

In 2013 she was locked up in Kaufman County with Eric Williams then-wife Kim Williams, who was convicted of murder for her role in the plot. She told the judge they often talked about Eric’s case.

"Her attorney advised her to divorce her husband and testify against him. She was upset about testifying against her husband. She loved him,” Barten said, adding that she was confident Kim was set to get some type of deal for testifying.

Williams’ wife, Kim, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 40 years in prison for helping him carry out the murders.

Public defender John Wright was on Willliams’ trial defense team and also took the stand on Tuesday.

“We might've reviewed a quarter of the discovery. We couldn't read it fast enough. We were just not prepared for trial,” he said.

Attorney Sue Korioth was a close advisor and research attorney in the Kaufman DA's office at the time of the murders. She testified on Tuesday and the defense team set out to show she was extremely biased toward Williams.

"Just this past weekend, in an email, you wrote (the prosecutor) Ms. Smith and called Mr. Williams a snibbling little bastard,” the defense attorney said.

On cross examination, Korioth was asked, "Was your motivation to seee Eric Williams arrested or to see the crimes solved? She responded: "My motivation was to see whoever was murdering people caught and prosecuted."

In 2015, Williams requested a new trial based on claims that the judge prevented him from being tested for a brain disorder. That request was denied.