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Murder conviction upheld for man who shot at car in Deer Park

An appellate court has again upheld the murder conviction of a North Babylon man who in 2001 shot at a car he was chasing in Deer Park, causing it to lose control, killing a passenger.

In its ruling Wednesday, the Appellate Division Second Department in Brooklyn determined that Eric Williams had acted with depraved indifference to human life on May 15, 2001, when he fired at a car driven by Melissa Singh. A passenger, Candice Arena, 19, of Deer Park, was ejected and killed.

The court also ruled that Williams’ rights were not compromised when testimony from his first trial was read to the jury at a second trial in 2015. A witness had been deported and could not return to testify.

In Williams’ appeal, his attorney had argued that the legal definition of depraved indifference to human life has evolved so much since 2001 that he was convicted based on an outdated version of the charge.

But the court ruled that Williams’ behavior clearly showed a state of mind establishing depraved indifference.

“The defendant engaged in a high-speed chase, in the course of which he fired a gun at the fleeing car, causing Singh, the driver, to lose control of that car,” the decision said. “Following the crash, the defendant exhibited no signs of remorse for the results of his recklessness, and even went so far as to express his disappointment that [another passenger, Melissa] Weiner had survived the crash.”

Williams, who is serving 30 years to life in prison, was chasing the car to collect a $260 drug debt from Weiner.

A federal judge threw out Williams’ first conviction in 2013, ruling that the judge, the prosecutor, the defense lawyer and the appellate lawyer all did a bad job of handling the testimony of Williams’ girlfriend, Rebecca Madigan, who blurted out unexpectedly that he had killed before.

U.S. District Judge John Gleeson called that testimony “beyond the pale” because it improperly suggested Williams had a tendency to kill.

In a statement, Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini said, “This was an excellent job by Assistant District Attorney Caren Manzello in arguing the appeal and ensuring that justice prevailed on behalf of the victims and their families.”

Williams’ appellate attorney, Jane Simkin Smith of Putnam, did not respond to requests for comment.

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