SOMERVILLE, N.J. — Lawyers representing former NBA star Jayson Williams can have a judge review the personnel and employment records of five white state troopers involved in the manslaughter case against him, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Williams' lawyers said they were inquiring about the troopers' records to reserve the right to challenge their credibility should they be called to testify against Williams. The lawyers contend that three of the troopers' records will indicate they stopped a disproportionate number of minorities while assigned to the New Jersey Turnpike, that one was involved with a bias complaint, and the other was said to have coached another trooper about racial profiling.
Prosecutors opposed the defense request, arguing that the troopers did not target Williams but were summoned to his New Jersey estate the night of the shooting.
Superior Court Judge Edward Coleman also ordered the prosecution to review the personnel files of any member of the state police that is on its witness list and alert the defense to anything in the officers' records that could become a credibility issue.
Defense lawyers declined to comment on the racial makeup of the state police on the witness list. Prosecutors would not comment about those officers.
Williams, who is black, is accused of recklessly handling the shotgun that killed Costas Christofi on Feb. 14, 2002. Williams could face nearly 55 years in prison if convicted of all charges, the most serious of which is aggravated manslaughter.
Williams' trial is expected to begin in January.
The 6-foot-10 Williams was among the NBA's best rebounders when leg injuries led to his retirement from the New Jersey Nets in 2000.