Attorneys for Wayne B. Williams today lost their bid to compel Georgia Gov. George Busbee and high-level law- enforcement officials to testify about a secret meeting last June 19 that apparently led to Williams' arrest on murder charges.
Superior Court Judge Clarence Cooper granted a motion to quash subpoenas issued by the defense for Busbee and three other officials who participated in the seven-hour meeting at the governor's mansion.
At that meeting the FBI reportedly argued for Williams' arrest, while local prosecutors wanted to wait until they had more evidence against him. Two days later, the 23-year-old free-lance photographer and aspiring music promoter was jailed.
Williams is charged with killing Jimmy Ray Payne, 21, and Nathaniel Cater, 27, two of 28 young Atlanta blacks whose deaths were investigated by a special police task force and the FBI.
Cooper granted a motion to quash the subpoenas served on Busbee, his executive counsel, the former state attorney general and the director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
He also granted a motion to continue subpoenas served on Dorothy Kirkley, a former U.S. attorney in the Atlanta area, and John D. Glover, the special agent in charge of the FBI's Atlanta office. The continuations mean that Kirkley and Glover probably will not have to testify.
Defense Attorney Alvin Binder had termed the June gathering a "midnight meeting," and suggested that Williams' trial is the result of a conspiracy among the participants to find a scapegoat for Atlanta's slayings.
An assistant state attorney general had argued, however, that the motives of a prosecutor are irrelevant once a defendant has been indicted and arraigned. Cooper agreed, saying that testimony about alleged prosecution motives would be "irrelevant and therefore inadmissible."
Williams was questioned last June 3 during a 12-hour stay at the FBI's Atlanta headquarters, and his house and car were searched, but he was released without being charged.
After briefing Justice Department officials in Washington about the case, the FBI reportedly sought the meeting with Busbee to argue for Williams' arrest.
At the governor's mansion meeting, which reportedly ran from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., District Attorney Lewis Slaton agreed to arrest Williams if he tried to leave the state or continued to lead police and the media on high-speed chases. Such a chase occurred the following night, and Williams was arrested the next day.
Williams' defense team today called his seventh-grade social studies teacher, his high school principal, a well-known local radio announcer and Atlanta's former public safety commissioner to testify about Williams' activities.
A. Reginald Eaves, the former public safety commissioner and unsuccessful mayoral candidate, now a county commissioner, said he helped Williams arrange to take photographs of fires that he could sell to the fire department's arson squad.
The radio announcer, Doug Steele, markets a syndicated radio program of soul music. Steele testified about the low-power radio station Williams operated as a teen-ager, his work as a free-lance cameraman for local television stations and his attempts to break into the music business.
Steele said he once asked Williams' father why he spent so much money on his son's radio station, which helped drive the family into bankruptcy in 1976.
"He was willing to do anything to keep his son off the streets, he told me," Steele said.