Jury finds Lexington man guilty in 2010 slaying, recommends 35-year sentence

A Fayette Circuit Court jury on Thursday found Sidney Lane Williams Jr. guilty of first-degree manslaughter, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.

The jury recommended a sentence of 35 years, and Williams would be eligible for parole after serving 20 years. Judge Thomas Clark scheduled final sentencing for Feb. 22.

The jury took a little less than six hours to return the verdict against Williams, 38, who fatally shot Victor Martin, 39, in 2010.

Williams admitted to binding, bagging and removing Martin's body from the Alabama Avenue shooting scene, dumping it near a driveway off Russell Cave Road, and then setting it on fire, public defender Chris Tracy said in his closing argument.

The defense denied that the shooting was intentional murder and argued that Williams shot Martin in self-defense after Martin pulled a gun and demanded money.

"Sidney did what he had to do in that situation," Tracy said.

To underline that, Tracy did not go over the jury instructions for intentional murder. Instead, he focused on the instructions for lesser charges of first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide.

The eight women and four men on the jury were instructed to find Williams guilty of first-degree manslaughter if they found that he had been under "extreme emotional disturbance" when he shot Martin.

Extreme emotional disturbance is defined as "a temporary state of mind so enraged, inflamed or disturbed as to overcome one's judgment, and to cause one to act uncontrollably from the impelling force of the extreme emotional disturbance rather than from evil or malicious purposes."

In her closing argument, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Kimberly Henderson Baird said Williams had lied repeatedly.

Referring to Williams' testimony on Wednesday, Baird said, "He sat here and said, 'I acted in self-defense' with a straight face.'"

The prosecution had argued that Williams lured Martin, who had been laid off, to the Williams house with the prospect of a paying landscaping job. Then, because Williams thought that Martin had burglarized his house sometime before, Williams shot him.

The statutory penalty for second-degree manslaughter is 10 to 20 years in prison. But because Williams had four prior felony convictions — for assault, trafficking in marijuana, trafficking in cocaine, and receiving a stolen gun — the jury also found him guilty of being a persistent felony offender.

That enhanced the maximum penalty on the manslaughter charge up to life in prison. The jury, however, recommended 35 years on the manslaughter conviction.

Tampering with evidence carries a penalty of one to five years. But because Williams was a persistent felony offender, the jury upped the sentence to 10 years. The jury recommended that the 35 years on the manslaughter charge and the 10 years on the tampering charge be served at the same time, for a total of 35 years.

Abuse of a corpse is a misdemeanor and adds no time to the sentence.

Martin's family had no comment after the trial. The Williams family maintained that Williams was a protector and provider when times were hard.

"God has the final say," said Cheryl Williams, Sidney's mother. "He's the higher power."

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