Jurors in Houston wept during testimony in the penalty phase of Tyrone Williams’ human smuggling trial, which authorities are calling the “nation’s deadliest human smuggling attempt.”

Williams, 35, faces the death penalty for causing the deaths of more than 70 illegal aliens who were crammed in his “tomb-like” tractor-trailer for four hours during the attempt to go from south Texas to Houston in 2003. According to reports, they “scraped at the insulation, broke out the tail-lights and screamed for help.” Nineteen of the illegal aliens died from dehydration, overheating and suffocation. Williams left the tractor-trailer at a truck stop in Victoria, which is about 100 miles south of Houston.

Julieta Salgado Perez’s father, Mario, was one of the illegal aliens who died. She testified today, the second day of testimony from relatives of the victims and asked for justice for her father.

“My father didn’t deserve to die the way he did,” Salgado Perez said. “He was not an animal.”

Prosecutors says Williams should be executed because he intentionally caused the deaths of 19 people by not letting them out of the truck.

“The only justifiable punishment in this case should be death,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Rodriguez said.

Williams’ attorney, Craig Washington, said his client never meant for the people to die and is remorseful. He says says his client isn’t responsible for the deaths because he didn’t know the illegal aliens were dying until it was too late. Washington also said that 14 other members of the smuggling ring Williams worked with are charged in the case but are not facing the death penalty.

Williams was convicted on Dec. 4, 2006 of 58 counts for the May 2003 incident. Last year, Williams was convicted of 38 counts, but avoided the death penalty because the jury couldn’t come to an agreement on the smuggling charge. It was deadlocked on 20 other counts. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the jury’s decision was invalid because it didn’t specify his role.

The trial was postponed for a month because an attorney fell ill and because of the holidays.

Be Sociable, Share!