Denise Williams appeals murder conviction and life sentence

By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 22, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla (WCTV) - A Tallahassee woman found guilty of plotting her husband's murder is now asking the courts to toss out her conviction and sentence.

Denise Williams is serving a life sentence for the murder of her husband Michael Williams, who disappeared while duck hunting back in December 2000.

Denise Williams was convicted of murder 18 years later, when confessed trigger man Brian Winchester admitted to a secret affair and murder plot and ultimately led authorities to Michael Williams' body.

Williams' attorneys argued their case before the First District Court of Appeal on Wednesday afternoon.

They contend there was not sufficient evidence to prove Williams was involved in the murder.

"Planning a crime is a crime. I'm not arguing that. Covering up a crime is a crime. I'm not arguing that. What I am arguing is there is no evidence of assisting in the commission of this crime," defense attorney Phil Padovano told the court. "There is still nothing that the defendant did or said that helps Winchester in the actual commission of the crime."

"When she's writing checks behind the victim's back to keep the policy open, when she's encouraging the victim to take out more life insurance when she is simultaneously plotting his demise, those are acts in furtherance of the murder," Benjamin Hoffman argued on behalf of the state.

About a dozen of Denise Williams' family and friends filled the second floor courtroom during the nearly hour long hearing. Brian Winchester's attorney Tim Jansen was there. So was prosecutor Jon Fuchs.

"If you sit there and you plan a murder over the course of a year or longer and then the murder occurs, you don't get to back away and say 'Gee, I never thought that would occur.' That just defies all common sense and defies the law," Fuchs said after the hearing.

Williams' attorneys want her guilty verdicts and her life sentence overturned.

It could take weeks or months for the appeals court to rule.


By: Julie Montanaro | WCTV Eyewitness News
January 21, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) — The First District Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear oral arguments this week in the Denise Williams murder case.

The Tallahassee woman is serving a life sentence for her husband's murder.

Denise Williams was convicted in late 2018 for the murder of her husband Mike Williams, who was shot and killed by his friend Brian Winchester while duck hunting back in December 2000.

Her arrest and conviction came after Winchester admitted 18 years later that the pair planned the murder so they could be together and cash in on Williams’ life insurance policies.

Williams is appealing her guilty verdicts for murder and conspiracy, saying there was no evidence to prove she was involved in the crime.

“The State utterly failed in its burden to establish that Denise committed the requisite act in furtherance of the murder and also failed to meet the elements to prove a conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt,” the appeal reads. “Nothing in Brian’s testimony showed that Denise helped carry out the murder or that she ever intended to participate in it.”

Williams’ attorneys also contend prosecutors unfairly prejudiced the jury when they showed photos of her in bed with another woman and commented on her demeanor during the trial.

“As the prosecutor reminded the jury during closing, Denise just 'sat [t]here' at the trial 'absolutely stoned face [sic]. Didn’t bat an eye. Didn’t shed a tear,'" the appeal reads.

“The real culprit was Brian Winchester. He’s the one who committed the murder,” the appeal reads. “That the State chose to grant him immunity so that it could quell the negative publicity surrounding its failure to solve a cold case is unfortunate, to say the least. But Denise Williams should not suffer as a result.”

Oral arguments in the case are set for Wednesday afternoon at the First District Court of Appeals. According to the online docket, each side will have 15 minutes to make its case. A ruling could take weeks or months.

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