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Tuesday, February 18, 1997 WRITER: Kathy R. Pharr, 542-5172 CONTACT: Jill C. Birch, 542-5190 \u22MIDNIGHT\u22 TRIAL TO BE FEATURE OF UGA LAW DAY OBSERVANCE ATHENS, Ga. -- It is the only murder case in Georgia history to be tried four times and is the subject of the best-selling novel, \u22Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,\u22 which begins filming later this year in Savannah. On Friday, March 7, the murder trials of wealthy and socially prominent antiques dealer Jim Williams become the focus of Law Day, the annual observance of the principle and practice of American law and justice, at the University of Georgia. At 2:30 p.m. in the UGA Chapel, students in the School of Law\u27s mock trial program will re-enact the testimony of key witnesses in the third trial. Sonny Seiler (\u2757 alumnus), the acclaimed Savannah attorney who represented Williams in three of his four murder trials, will share trial exhibits and photographs and provide commentary following the testimony of several of the witnesses. Peter Muller (\u2787 alumnus), a partner in Seiler\u27s firm of Bouhan, Williams \u26 Levy, will portray Williams. Fuller E. Callaway Professor Ron Carlson, a leading authority on trial practice and evidence, will play the judge and also offer trial analysis. Following the trial re-enactment, a reception will be held on the fourth floor of the law school\u27s new addition, Dean Rusk Hall, from 5-6:30 p.m. Seiler and a favorite character from the book, Mrs. Emma Kelly, will autograph guests\u27 personal copies of Midnight. \u22Mrs. Emma,\u22 known as \u22The Lady of 6,000 Songs,\u22 will provide music for the occasion and perform special requests -- all from memory. At the Chapel re-enactment, Seiler will distribute a summary overview of the case and provide audience members with a simple glossary of relevant legal terms. Later, he will field audience questions. \u22Presentation of the exciting facts which played a role in this trial presents a real challenge to our students,\u22 said Carlson, the mock trial faculty advisor. \u22Their participation in this event with leading members of the bar affords an excellent educational opportunity. It also promises to provide the audience with a glimpse of the some of the strategies which marked this litigation.\u22 Williams was accused of shooting and killing Danny Hansford during a dispute in his home, regarded as Savannah\u27s grandest mansion, on May 2, 1981. Williams claimed it was self-defense. Two Savannah juries convicted him of murder, but the convictions were overturned on technicalities by higher courts. A third jury was hung, but following a change of venue to Augusta, Williams was acquitted of all charges. In January 1990, Williams died at home in the very room where his former housemate had died nine years earlier. In 1994, author John Berendt\u27s Midnight in the Garden of Good \u26 Evil, based on Williams\u27 lengthy legal battle and the author\u27s encounters with some of Savannah\u27s more colorful characters, became a runaway hit, spending nearly 140 weeks to date on the New York Times bestseller list. Clint Eastwood will direct the screen version of the book, and some of Hollywood\u27s biggest stars are reportedly lobbying to land much-coveted parts. The crowd-pleasing Mrs. Emma will provide background music for the School of Law\u27s annual student academic and leadership awards luncheon, held at 12:30 in the Georgia Hall of the UGA Tate Student Center. This year, the law school is also reviving the tradition of Parents\u27 Day, inviting parents of first-year law students to sit in on their children\u27s required torts class, attend the awards luncheon, and participate in the Law Day program. All events are open free to the public, except the awards luncheon, for which tickets may be purchased from the School of Law\u27s Alumni Programs Office for $12. Attorneys may earn CLE credit for attending the trial re-enactment for a registration fee of $10. -30

Topics: Legal Education
Publisher: Digital Commons @ Georgia Law
Year: 1997
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