Lawyers for Wayne B. Williams today requested that the jury in his trial on two murder charges be taken to the Chattahoochee River bridge where he came under suspicion last May in the city's string of killings.
The James Jackson Parkway bridge has figured prominently in his trial. A police recruit staked out below it heard a loud splash in the river just before 3 a.m. last May 22, a few seconds before another police recruit saw Williams' station wagon driving slowly across the bridge.
Two days later, the nude body of Nathanial Cater, one of the two young blacks Williams is accused of murdering, surfaced about a mile downstream from the bridge.
In arguing that the jury should be taken to the bridge, defense attorney Mary Welcome said, "It is important for Wayne Williams to have the jury to go out there and see for themselves what the scene is like."
She noted that prosecutors have used an elaborate FBI-built scale model of the bridge and several FBI aerial photographs to acquaint the jury with the scene.
In opposing the defense motion, assistant district attorney Joe Drolet argued that such visual aids have already taught the jurors a great deal about the bridge. He said a visit to the bridge is unnecessary and would be "fraught with the possibility" of a mistrial.
Drolet said the bridge would have to be blocked off, the press would have to be kept away, and the visit would have to take place about 3 a.m.
He also noted that the spot on the river bank where one police recruit had been camped out on May 22 could now be under water because of recent heavy rains.
Superior Court Judge Clarence Cooper took the defense motion under advisement.
David Dingle, a National Weather Service hydrologist who studied Chattahoochee River currents for the defense, began his testimony today but did not discuss the result of his tests.
Dingle testified that he tracked the downstream path of two dummies, which had been built as aids in teaching cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
One dummy, which Welcome named Horace, slid along the river bottom. The other, which she named Ferdinand, floated along the surface.
Dingle said he also placed oranges in the river and observed their "dispersion pattern."
Defense attorneys were blocked today in attempts to introduce tests about the way sound travels around the Jackson Parkway bridge. Cooper ruled the tests inadmissible, saying they were conducted under conditions too different from those that existed at the bridge last summer.
Cooper also heard arguments on motions to quash defense subpoenas served on Gov. George Busbee and other state officials who participated in a secret meeting last June that indirectly led to Williams' arrest.
An assistant U.S. attorney also urged Cooper to delay subpoenas against a former U.S. attorney and the special agent in charge of the FBI's Atlanta office, who also was at the meeting.
Defense attorney Alvin Binder claimed that the meeting is the reason Williams is now on trial, but an attorney for Busbee and the other state officials said the meeting is "irrelevant and immaterial" to Willliams' innocence or guilt.
The attorney said the issue of the prosecution's motivation in charging Williams should have been raised before he was arraigned last Aug. 17.