On October 17, CultureMap Dallas managing editor Claire St. Amant received her second Philbin Award for excellence in legal reporting, this time for her October 2013 investigative piece titled “The making of the Keller black widow: Did Michele Williams get away with murder?”
Last month, Michele Williams, a 45-year-old mother of four, went to trial and was found guilty of the 2011 murder of her husband, Greg. The jury got an earful during the sentencing phase and gave her 60 years in prison.
From the beginning, Michele kept changing her story. First she said an intruder did it, then she claimed Greg committed suicide and she cleaned it up to protect their 4-year-old daughter, who was asleep in the house when her father died.
At the time Claire first reported the story, Michele, who initially had been charged with murder, had pled guilty to deadly conduct and tampering with evidence. She was supposed to begin an 18-year prison stint in April 2014, after she gave birth to twins.
But in January of this year, things took yet another turn when Michele turned herself in after supposedly losing the pregnancy. It has since been called into question whether she was ever pregnant at all.
This case also caught the attention of CBS’ 48 Hours. A team from the show came down from New York to work with Claire for the episode titled “Temptation in Texas,” which aired May 3.
The Philbin Awards honor excellence in legal reporting that contributes to the public’s understanding of the legal system. The Philbin Awards are given in the following categories: metropolitan or statewide newspaper: feature story; metropolitan or statewide newspaper: spot news; metropolitan or statewide newspaper: series; suburban newspaper: news or feature articles; magazine article(s); television and radio; and electronic media.
Claire won in the category of electronic media. When selecting the winners, judges considered educational value, accuracy, resourcefulness and “the journalist’s initiative in pursuing the story and the story’s contribution to public debate.”
Claire also received a Philbin Award in October 2012, just one month after CultureMap launched in Dallas, for her coverage of the ESD sex scandal, which she wrote about for Preston Hollow People and its blog. The story also ran on the cover of D Magazine in October 2011.
The Dallas Bar has been presenting the Philbin Awards annually since 1983.