WILKES-BARRE — A Fairmount Township resident facing trial on charges he fatally shot a man wants to use a disability designation by the Social Security Administration in his upcoming trial.
Attorney Tim Fannick believes the disability determination for his client, Keith Michael Williams, 42, would help prove Williams’ self-defense argument.
State police allege Williams fired a 12-gauge shotgun at Brock Kimber Earnest, 41, inside a house on Old Tioga Turnpike in Fairmount Township on Jan. 11, 2017.
Earnest, of Montandon, died from a gunshot wound to the chest.
Prosecutors allege Williams was upset that Earnest was flirting with his girlfriend, Deidre DePiero, as they consumed a 30-pack of beer. During a playful fight, Earnest punched Williams in the head and Earnest kept insisting Williams fight back.
Williams went into a bedroom, loaded the shotgun and stood 5 feet away from Earnest before pulling the trigger, court records say.
Williams’ trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 27.
At an emergency status conference Tuesday before Judge David W. Lupas, Fannick said he believes the disability designation by Social Security would attempt to establish Williams had limited mobility of his body to protect himself from Earnest.
“His defense is he could not defend himself because of his limited mobility, his physical limitations are relevant to the jury,” Fannick said. “There’s no question he fired a gun; there’s no question a man died.”
Assistant district attorneys Michelle Hardik and Justin Richards fear the disability designation could confuse the jury, a question also raised by Lupas.
Hardik and Richards also believe the letter should be excluded from trial because the letter is dated March 11, 2017, two months after Earnest was fatally shot.
“At the time of the crime, he was not disabled by Social Security,” Hardik said.
Hardik said the letter does not specify what types of benefits Williams was entitled to receive, whether Social Security Disability or Supplemental Security Income.
According to the letter, Williams suffers from neuropathy, diabetes and hyperlipidemia.
Lupas said he will allow Hardik and Fannick to submit additional court briefs before making a ruling prior to trial.