A Montgomery County man on trial for murder is expected to take the witness stand today to make a bold claim: The drugs made me do it.
Raymond Williams, 36, stands accused of stabbing and choking to death Azin Naimi last summer inside a North Bethesda art studio where they both worked. Williams scrubbed and mopped up the crime scene, wrapped up Naimi’s body in a yellow blanket, drove to the District and dumped her body in an alley, authorities said.
“A brutal, vicious murder,” prosecutor Stephen Chaikin said during opening statements Monday.
Williams’s attorney, Alan Drew, told jurors that his client did indeed kill Naimi. But he said Williams was so high on PCP and crack cocaine that he’d lost the ability to reason. To amplify the point, Drew began his opening statement by assuming the voice of PCP, also known as phencyclidine.
“Good afternoon. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is phencyclidine,” Drew told jurors. “I went along on that particular day in July, a Sunday, with my friend cocaine. I went with Raymond Williams to the Art Warehouse on that day. I had a key. We went inside. Raymond, on that day, consumed me. He smoked me, PCP, sometimes called boat, sometimes called lovely. And he smoked me on that day. He also smoked my friend cocaine, 80 dollars worth of crack cocaine.”
Williams’s plan had been to get high and hide in the studio, Drew said. But Naimi arrived unexpectedly. Williams wasn’t thinking clearly, and they got into a struggle.
“On that day Raymond killed Ms. Naimi because he was high on me, PCP, and cocaine,” Drew said.
He also told jurors they would hear from an expert who would explain how PCP causes hallucinations, delusions and violence.
If convicted of first-degree murder, Williams faces life in prison. At the studio, he worked as a driver and handyman. Naimi specialized in restoring centuries old Russian art, a specialty for which she was world-renowned.
As a trial strategy, Drew’s emphasis on PCP reflects the strong evidence showing his client killed Naimi. If jurors conclude Williams killed her but was not thinking clearly, they might convict him of something akin to manslaughter, which carries a far lighter prison sentence.
Chaikin, the prosecutor, spent much of his opening statement showing that Williams was thinking clearly enough to try to carefully cover his tracks after the killing. “A thorough, thoughtful and deceitful cover-up,” Chaikin called it.
Prior to coming to the studio that day, Chaikin said, Williams had had an argument with his girlfriend. He knew he wasn’t supposed to be in the studio on a Sunday, and when Naimi showed up, Chaikin said, he panicked and attacked and it escalated into a murder. Chaikin said he stabbed Naimi repeatedly as she tried to fight back, but he couldn’t kill her.
“At that point, to stop her, he puts his hands around her neck and he chokes her until she stops breathing and she dies,” Chaikin said.